Clovis finishes 10-2, with its two losses to Eldorado by a combined five points. The Wildcats won nine straight games following their 22-21 loss against the Eagles on Sept. 5.
“You want to be in the final,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said, “but with 10-2 you have nothing to be ashamed of. They should be proud, their parents should be proud.”
The Eagles came in highly touted on offense, and got 134 yards rushing from Gary Maestas. But it was the defense that starred Saturday, holding the Wildcats to 78 yards and six first downs.
The Wildcats’ lone scoring drive, finished on a McMath 3-yard run in the third, covered 38 yards — three more than Clovis’ entire first-half output. It was, however, the only time Clovis entered Eldorado territory.
When Dotson was told the Eagles held Clovis to less than 80 yards, the second-year coach repeated the number in disbelief before crediting the elements.
“The wind played a factor,” Dotson said. “Our kids played well, and our linebackers played well.”
Kelley and Dotson said the wind helped the Eagles in the fourth quarter, but Kelley said the Wildcats had to take that chance because they needed the wind at their backs to mount a third-quarter comeback.
With Clovis senior receiver Moses Bibbs out with a pulled muscle, the Eagles were able to put eight defenders in the box to stop the Clovis running game, while still holding the Wildcats without a completion and intercepting two long Wildcat passes.
“You lose the fastest kid in the state and that happens,” Kelley said. “He’s one of the fastest kids in the state, but sometimes you pull a muscle and you can’t do anything.”
Despite the poor showing on offense, the Wildcats still had a chance at a game-winning drive with five minutes to play, as the defense forced a fourth down the Clovis 45.
That’s when Orrin Sears, who scored on a 14-yard reception in the second quarter, kicked the Eagles to the brink of the state title game as his corner punt bounced at the Clovis 1 but stopped short of the end zone. That’s when, Kelley said, “it turned 90 degrees and bounced out.”
Pinned on its 1, Clovis couldn’t pick up a first down, and the Eagles salted the game away by feeding the ball to Maestas.
“That punt was huge,” Dotson said. “He’s been punting for a couple of weeks. We didn’t teach him anything. That kid’s just a good athlete.”
McMath, the punt returner, wasn’t consoled much by knowing he made the high-percentage play.
“My heart dropped,” McMath said of the punt bouncing out of bounds. “Coach always tells me if it’s inside the 10, let it go. I let it go and it just curved.”
Senior linebacker Lane Ward said Eldorado’s a great team, but was happy with what he and his teammates had accomplished by taking the Eagles to the brink.
“I thought we did good. We just came up short. I loved playing with all the guys and I’m going to miss them all.”