Clovis senior defense tackle Michael Howard drags down Goddard quarterback David Vega behind the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats host Cibola tonight.
Cibola coach Judge Chavez said his unbeaten Cougars need to be tested after running roughshod over their last five opponents.
Enter Clovis, where the atmosphere and tradition at Leon Williams Stadium are unlike any his team has faced this year.
“This is our first true test since our opener against La Cueva (a 24-21 win),” Chavez said. “ If we’re going to win a state championship, we’re going to have to learn to win on the road and in an environment like this. It’ll be a good experience.”
It’s also the Wildcats’ homecoming game.
Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said the third-ranked Cougars are for real despite their soft schedule — Cibola’s first six opponents are a combined 11-22.
“They’re huge and have a really good quarterback who throws the ball well and does a great job of leading the team,” Kelley said. “They’re a sound, disciplined football team.”
Chavez said when he took the job at Cibola two years ago he committed to throwing the ball. It’s worked out well because he has one of the state’s top quarterbacks in Jonathan Mader, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, who has already been offered a scholarship by New Mexico.
Mader, who threw for five TDs and ran for another in last week’s 41-7 win over Sandia, has completed 54-of-86 passes for 957 yards this season. His favorite target is 6-3, 185-pound senior Brandon Simpson.
He said the Cougars throw the ball about 60 percent of the time.
“I’ve always liked to throw the ball,” said Chavez, whose Highland teams were known more for their powerful running games. “We’re more of a drop back team now. But it was pretty easy to make the adjustment.”
However, Kelley is just as concerned about the Cougars’ power running game out of the Wing-T.
“When it comes down to it, it’s going to be a smash-mouth football game,” Kelley said. “When it’s time to get something done they’re going to run right at you.”
While Cibola sees the game as a chance to make a statement, Kelley said he’s more focused on the Wildcats’ season-long quest for consistency.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats (3-3) are coming off a disheartening 14-9 home loss to Class 4A Goddard.
“We’ve got to be able to execute on Friday nights two weeks in a row,” Kelley said.
“We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the football and capitalizing on mistakes and turnovers by getting the ball in the end zone,” Kelley said.
The Wildcats started their first two drives against Goddard at the Rockets’ 35- and 22-yard line but had just three points to show for it.
Goddard turned a pair of first-half Wildcat turnovers into 14 points.
The Wildcats were also missing leading rusher Manuel Robles, who is expected to return tonight.
Cibola at Clovis
7 p.m. today
at Leon Williams Stadium
• Records: Cibola 6-0, Clovis 3-3.
• Coaches: Cibola, Judge Chavez, 2nd year. Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 30th.
• Last week: Cibola beat Sandia 41-7, Clovis lost to Goddard 14-9.
• Last meeting: 2006, Clovis beat Cibola 21-13.
• Cibola players to watch: Jonathan Mader, Sr., QB, 6-4, 210; Chase Bennison, Sr., RB, 6-0, 170; Brandon Simpson, Sr., WR, 6-3, 185.
• Overview: Led by senior QB Jonathan Mader and a strong supporting cast, the third-ranked Cougars are looking to make a statement. The Wildcats are trying to develop consistency heading into the final month of the regular season.
• Unbeaten again: Cibola also came into last year’s game undefeated at 5-0.
• Long drought: The Cougars haven’t won in Clovis since 1978, which was Wildcats coach Eric Ronahaus’ first of his 30 seasons. Cibola’s starting quarterback in the game was Andy Mader, the father of current Cougars’ signal caller Jonathan Mader.
• Oh brother: Chavez had three Fiaseau brothers play for him at Highland while their dad was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base. A fourth brother, junior RB Daniel Fiaseau, plays for Cibola, where his dad was hired as ROTC director after retiring from the Air Force.
• Rio grande: Cibola junior offensive and defensive lineman Rio Mares is listed at 6-6 and 350 pounds. The Cougars also have a pair of 270-pounders starting on the offensive line in senior tackle Terrance Motley and junior center Brannon O’Neil.
• Linebacker of doom: One of the Cougars’ linebackers is 6-1, 215-pound senior Indiana Jones.
• Takeaway/giveaway: The Wildcats hold a 18-11 edge in turnover ratio; however, they are a plus 8 in their three wins and a minus 1 in their three losses.
• Go figure: Cibola has scored 41 points in each of the last three games and four times this season.
• On the radio: KCLV 1240 AM and 99.1 FM, KTQM 99.9 FM, KKYC 102.3 FM.