A small table, with a smaller TV, connected to an even smaller DVD player, sends big messages in the Clovis Wildcats’ locker room.
The TV shows the disastrous final minutes of Clovis’ 22-21 overtime defeat Sept. 5 against the Eldorado Eagles. It’s been on a loop since Monday. The table holds it all, plus a sign that said Eldorado’s post-game chant last Saturday was, “We want Clovis.”
Clovis seeks to avenge its only defeat in today’s 1 p.m. Class 5A semifinal at Wilson Stadium, and Eldorado wants to prove rallying from 14-0 with four minutes to go was no fluke.
Another minor detail — the winner faces either Las Cruces or Mayfield for the 5A title next week.
“If you aren’t,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said, “you should wonder what you’re doing here.”
Clovis (10-1) got here by running the table since its Week 2 meltdown against the Eagles, and earning Class 5A’s No. 3 seed. Its 31-7 quarterfinal win over Sandia set up the rematch with the 11-0 Eagles, seeded second behind Las Cruces.
Of course, a Clovis win probably would have just flipped the seeds, and a hypothetical No. 2 Clovis would still be visiting No. 3 Eldorado due to playoff histories.
“I don’t think it would have changed anything,” Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson said. “I still think Mayfield would have went No. 4. But the confidence it gave us going into Mayfield (and winning 26-20 Oct. 3), you can’t measure that.”
Clovis senior running back Stefan Mills said the loss gave the Wildcats a sense of urgency.
“I think it gave them a lot of confidence,” Mills said. “Personally, I think it helped us more. It put a big fire in our system, and we were saying, ‘We don’t want that to happen again.’”
But it does, again and again on the small table. As the TV shows the Wildcats failing to get a first down on their final three regulation possessions, the DVD subtitle reads, “Stupid ... stupid ... stupid ... stupid.”
Mills saw plenty to agree with, but noted the first 44 minutes were abundant with opportunity.
“We could have finished off some drives early,” Mills said. “In the second quarter, we stalled. We could have gotten a score, even just a field goal, and it would have helped us.”
Dotson expects Clovis to finish plays this time, both on offense and defense, because it’s Clovis and there’s a chance to play in December.
“This is when they play their best football,” Dotson said. “They hit hard and they play smart, and they’re very well-coached.”
Though Kelley says he expects a close game, “strange things happen sometimes in the playoffs” and the hope is “you’ve played in enough big spots you know how you’re going to react.” Dotson agrees, and thinks the game could tilt on special teams.
Special teams play out on the TV, as well. A short Andrew North punt is labeled a “shank.” A booming North punt is praised, but poor punt coverage is blamed providing the Eagles another short field.
A few plays later, running back Gary Maestas dives in for the 2-pointer in overtime. The final subtitle reads, “Eldorado wins ... Clovis loses,” and the four minutes start again.
Dotson hopes for those last four words again, but he knows he’ll have to do it without the Eagles getting those last four minutes.
“We got some lucky breaks in the last minutes,” Dotson said. “They’ll come at us for four quarters this time."
Clovis (10-1) at Eldorado (11-0)
1 p.m. today, Wilson Stadium
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 31st season, 290-99-5. Eldorado, Charlie Dotson, 2nd season, 20-3.
Last week: The third-seeded Wildcats stopped Sandia 31-7 in the Class 5A quarterfinals. The second-seeded Eagles blanked Rio Rancho 34-0.
Last meeting: 2008, Eldorado defeated Clovis 22-21 in Week 2, rallying from a 14-0 deficit with less than five minutes to play and winning on a 2-point conversion in overtime.
Eldorado players to watch: WR Jami Abdullah (5-11, 175, Sr.), WR/FS Ross Williams (6-3, 175, Sr.), RB Gary Maestas (5-10, 185, Jr.).
On the radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
What to watch for: The Eagles want to attack with RAC — run after the catch. The tandem of Williams and Abdullah are adept at finding open spaces, and Dotson said the line is the biggest key to helping junior QB Arvin Day find his receivers. Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said finishing tackles is key, pointing to Abdullah’s 30-yard scoring reception in the September contest, which featured a broken tackle at the 20.
Notes: Dotson gets nostalgic when he sees Clovis senior RB Stefan Mills — who leads Clovis with 1,205 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns. Mills reminds Dotson of Logan Limpert, who graduated from Eldorado last year. “It’s kind of fun to watch him, with the speed that he has,” Dotson said of Mills. “On film, you can see him making a lot of plays.” … Senior WR Moses Bibbs, who tops Clovis with 14 receptions for 320 yards, left early against Sandia with a right leg injury. Bibbs said the injury was a bone bruise, and he expects to play today.
Go figure: The four teams remaining have three losses combined, against 41 wins. All three losses have been to each other, with Eldorado beating Clovis, and both Eldorado and Las Cruces (11-0) beating Mayfield (9-2). Those games were decided by a combined eight points.
— Kevin Wilson