ALBUQUERQUE — Clovis took the blows, and got the bounces.
Stefan Mills rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard run for the go-ahead score on the opening drive of the second half, as Clovis extended its winning streak to five games.
The Wildcats (6-1) never trailed, but fought all night against a Cibola club that forced the issue with a physical running attack.
“That’s the best 2-5 ballclub in the state,” Clovis coach Darren Kelley said.
At least, what’s left of it. For all the punishing hits the Cougars laid out Friday night, they were helpless to the injury bug. After picking up 80 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Cougar fullback Isaiah Wright sat out the second half with a concussion. Late in the fourth, with Clovis milking the final two minutes off the clock, junior tackle Aaron Arnold was hit and laid still on the field for five minutes before walking off the field with the help of trainers.
“We’ve got five concussions, we lost our starting fullback,” Cibola coach Judge Chavez said. “To start your career against the Clovis Wildcats is a lot to ask of our younger kids.”
In a quick-moving battle of rushing offenses, the Cougars posted 222 yards on the ground, but were held to two first downs and 81 yards in the second half — 50 coming on a Joseph Martinez run in a drive ended by a Morris Sharp fumble recovery.
“We’ve got to do a better job when people line up and run right at us,” Kelley said. “Defensively, we did a good job in the second half, holding them on two fourth downs.”
The Wildcats got a big opportunity three minutes in, as Josh Potocki found Moses Bibbs on a 33-yard pass in traffic. The ball popped loose, and the Cougars stood around assuming the pass was incomplete. Josh Bryan didn’t, and scooped up the fumble for a 41-yard recovery and score.
The other big moment came on special teams when junior Andrew North got off a high-arching 49-yard punt that pinned Cibola on its 12 with three minutes left in the game. The Wildcats held, knocking down three desperation pass attempts.
“He did a good job of getting it up in the air,” Kelley said, “and we did a good job of covering it.”
That punt came right when the Wildcats needed it, and North admitted relief after his first three punts went for a combined 80 yards.
“It makes me mad because in practice I do better,” said North, who still carries an accent from living in Devon, England, before moving to Clovis in eighth grade. “(The last punt) made me feel like I did good.”
Likewise, Chavez felt the Cougars did well despite another loss.
“When we went through walkthrough this morning, I said I didn’t care what the final score was,” Chavez said. “I wanted to walk off the field and be proud of our effort. We’re not about moral victories, but this is something we can build on.”