Clovis junior linebacker Lane Ward records one of his team-high 15 tackles in last week’s game against Palo Duro. Ward, who started the season as a backup, leads the team with 25 tackles.
Clovis senior defensive tackle Michael Howard (57) brings down Palo Duro's O'Quinn Young.
Lane Ward earned his job as a starting linebacker for the Clovis Wildcats mostly by default.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound junior responded by becoming the team’s leading tackler after three games.
Ward said he’s used to being overlooked. It just makes him work harder, like getting up at 5 a.m. this summer to run and lift weights before work.
“Ever since I started playing football in third grade I’ve always given it 100 percent,” said Ward, who with his closely cropped blond hair and braces looks more like he’d spend his Friday nights hitting the books than ball carriers.
“I might be small, but I can hit. I just have to show the coaches I can do the job just as well as others.”
Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley called Ward a pleasant surprise and said he is getting better every week.
“The thing is he wants to play football,” Kelley said. “He wants to be a Wildcat.”
Ward finished with a team-high 15 tackles in last week’s 33-0 win over Palo Duro, the Wildcats’ first shutout in 28 games.
“He was always around the ball,” Kelley said. “Now he’s getting to the ball.”
The Wildcats (2-1) will be looking to extend their shutout streak of seven quarters tonight at La Cueva.
Kelley said the game presents several challenges, including guarding against a letdown after playing so well last week.
“The big thing is making how we played last week the norm,” Kelley said, “and not get too excited about how we played.
“We need to expect to play that way all the time.”
La Cueva likes to run the ball, using multiple formations — Kelley counted more than 20 — in hopes of gaining a manpower advantage at the point of attack.
“They’re going to play hard against us no matter what their record is,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be about attitude and who can run the ball.”
Clovis at La Cueva
7 p.m. today, Wilson Stadium, Albuquerque
Records: Clovis 2-1, La Cueva 1-2
Last week: Clovis beat Palo Duro 33-0. La Cueva lost to Eldorado 21-10.
Last meeting: 2006, Clovis 31-13.
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 30th year. La Cueva, Fred Romero, 8th.
La Cueva players to watch: Harry Oms, Sr., QB, 6-0, 175; Justin Dugger, Sr., RB/LB, 6-1, 210; Ronnie Daniels, Fr., RB, 6-1, 180.
Scouting report: The Bears are not as big as they’ve been in the past and rely more on speed. Look for La Cueva to run sweeps and traps out of multiple formations. On defense, the Bears like to stunt their inside linebackers.
Ministreak: Clovis has beaten La Cueva two straight since the Bears won back-to-back state titles in 2003-04.
Go figure: last week’s 33-0 win was the Wildcats’ first shutout in 27 games — dating back to a 13-0 playoff win over Highland in 2004.
Clovis connection: Senior OLB Trevor Tixier is the son of Clovis grad and La Cueva track coach Mike Tixier.
Drafted: Sophomore K Andrew North, who started the game in street clothes in the stands, handled the kicking and punting duties last week against Palo Duro. Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said Robert North — Andrew’s older brother — suffered an off-the-field leg injury and didn’t tell the coaches. After he came up lame in the first quarter, Andrew North was plucked from the stands, where he was eating nachos. North got dressed in the locker room quickly and did the kicking and punting from the second quarter on. He will travel with the Wildcats the rest of the season, Kelley said.
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