Rio Rancho coach Mike Worley fondly remembers his days growing up in Portales and coaching under Bobby Crane, and trips to Clovis where his family owned a towering grain elevator visible from the Prince Street overpass.
Though his family know longer owns it, the elevator is still as he remembers it. Unfortunately, so is Clovis football.
“Clovis is such a well-coached team with a strong tradition and background,” said Worley, a 1984 Portales High grad. “They may not be in the classic mold of Clovis as far as personnel is concerned, but they’re still Clovis.
“Those kids go into a football game believing they can win.”
The key for Clovis (3-1), who host the Rams tonight at 7, is to not go in believing they’ll automatically beat the Rams, who are coming off a 52-36 loss to Goddard last week.
“In order to be successful, you’ve got to win consecutive games and get ready to play every week,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said.
“Sometimes winning makes you soft, and hopefully that’s not the case here.”
Whether Clovis pushes its winning streak to three depends on keeping the turnover margin close and handling the Rio Rancho blitz.
“They blitz almost every play,” senior receiver Moses Bibbs said. “It’s the receiver’s biggest job, especially if we’re running the ball to the outside.
I think it will open up a lot of the passing routes, because they’ll be attacking the middle.”
Bibbs said he expects an extra chance or two to make a big play, because the blitz includes big risks and rewards for either team.
“They’re going to make you look bad, and then you’re going to break a big one,” Kelley said. “They’re going to be very effective in what they do if we don’t pick it up.”
For Worley, whose program keeps pie charts of numerous statistics in the fieldhouse, said his defensive coaches make sure the blitzing strategy is tailored to each offense they face.
“It’s not a riverboat gamble,” Worley said. “We try to put them in the best position we possibly can.”
Against Clovis, Worley said it is imperative they gang-tackle Clovis running backs Stefan Mills, James Howard and Scott McMath — all players he feels can break the big play.
“These guys are like waterbugs,” Worley said. “You’ve got to be on your toes and you’ve got to be able to swarm these guys. They’re not going to go down with one guy tackling them.”
Having first coached under Crane in 1986, Worley has always admired the Clovis tradition and he wants to emulate it with the Rams. First, though, they have the task of pulling the upset against a team they have never beaten.
“We have to play the perfect game,” Worley said. “We have got to play flawless football.”