Clovis High senior quarterback Jordan Mendoza fires a pass during Wildcats practice on Thursday. Clovis opens its season against two-time defending Class 5A state champion Mayfield tonight in Las Cruces.
It only seems right that the Clovis Wildcats get first crack at ending the Mayfield Trojans’ 27-game winning streak.
The Wildcats are the last team to beat the two-time defending state champions — 15-7 in a state quarterfinal playoff game in 2004.
Clovis opens its season against Mayfield for the sixth straight year tonight in Las Cruces.
“It’s a good way to start the season,” said Mayfield coach Michael Bradley, a longtime Trojans assistant who took the reins of the southern New Mexico powerhouse when his father, Jim Bradley, retired after the 2005 season.
“We feel if we do a good job of preparing for Clovis, we’ll be prepared for the season,” he said.
“We always get pumped to play Clovis because we know we’re probably going to see them again later in the season.”
The Wildcats and Trojans have meet three times in the playoffs in the last six years, including twice in the state title game, with Clovis winning in 2001 and Mayfield in 2005.
The Trojans, ranked No. 1 in the Albuquerque Journal’s preseason coaches’ poll, are led by slippery senior quarterback Matt Sandoval and a handful of starters returning on both sides of the ball.
Despite his diminutive stature — 5-foot-6, 160 pounds — Sandoval put up big numbers last season, rushing for more than 1,300 yards and completing better than 50 percent of his passes from another 1,300-plus yards.
Senior running back Nathan Enriquez is another big-play option, while mammoth lineman Jeremy Gutierrez (6-3, 310) anchors the Trojans’ always-stingy defense.
Bradley describes Sandoval as a running back who happens to throw the ball well. Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley called the pint-sized left-hander trouble.
Kelley said the Wildcats, ranked third in the Journal poll, will try to keep Sandoval from getting outside the pocket, where he does most of his damage.
“We’ve got to be able to stop (Sandoval),” Kelley said. “The problem is how do you do that. No one else has figured it out yet.”
One way to slow Sandoval down is to keep the ball out of his hands, which will take a big effort from senior running backs Manuel Robles and Derrick Phillips and a revamped Wildcat offensive line.
“We can’t afford to spot them a touchdown or two,” Kelley said, “and we can’t turn the ball over.”
The Trojans have dominated the regular-season series with Clovis. They’ve won five straight games, including a come-from-behind 21-13 win in 2006.
“They just don’t make any mistakes,” Clovis senior cornerback Jaden Isler said. “That’s why they’re 27-0 the last two years.”
Isler said keeping the Trojans from converting on third down is critical.
“We struggled with that last year,” Isler said. ‘We just never seemed to get a third down stopped when we needed."
What: Clovis at Mayfield
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Field of Dreams, Las Cruces
Records: Season-opener for both teams
Last meeting: Mayfield 21-13, 2006
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 30th year. Mayfield, Michael Bradley, 2nd year.
Basic offense/defense: Clovis, pro-set, 5-2. Mayfield, multiple/5-2.
Overview: Mayfield has beaten Clovis in five straight season openers. Clovis needs some early success to build its confidence, otherwise the Wildcats could be for a long night against the high-powered Trojans. Finding a way to slow down all-state quarterback Matt Sandoval is a must.
On the radio: KCLV 1240 AM and 99.1 FM, KTQM 99.9 FM, KKYC 102.3 FM
Live the Web: The game will be the featured Webcast at www.NMAA.TV.
Mayfield players to watch: Matt Sandoval, Sr., QB, 5-6, 160; Nathan Enriquez, Sr., RB, 6-0, 180; Jeremy Gutierrez, Sr. DT/OT, 6-3, 309, Yanni Suter, Sr., LB/RB, 5-6, 155)
Pick your poison: Mayfield senior quarterback Matt Sandoval is the Michael Vick of New Mexico prep football — minus the dog-fighting hobby and about a half-a-foot shorter.
Teams that tried to the diminutive left-hander and Gatorade New Mexico Player of the Year often found themselves chasing him down field. The elusive Sandoval rushed for more than 1,300 yards while leading the Trojans to the a 13-0 record and the their second straight Class 5A title.
Teams that tried to keep him in the pocket also paid. He passed for more than 1,300 yards and completed better than 50 percent of his passes with one interception.
“He can throw the ball on a line and squeeze it into a two-foot opening,” said Bradley, adding Sandoval has a knack for getting the most from his ability and elevating the play of those around him. “He’s just a competitor.”
NFL genes: Mayfield junior wide receiver Freddy Young is the son of former Seattle Seahawks linebacker and Pro Bowl special teamer Fredd Young. a 1984 New Mexico State grad, the elder Young players seven seasons with the Seahawks and Colts.
Oh brother: Senior Yanni Suter is the fourth Suter brother to play linebacker for the Trojans.
Bradley on his team’s 27-game winning streak: “It’s tough when the expectations are so high and everybody is patting you on the back and telling you how good you are. I don’t care if you return one of 30 players, it’s a new team every year and it’s different chemistry.”
Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley on Mayfield: “We’ve got to have a few breaks and be able to capitalize on them. We’ve got to be more aggressive than we were in last week’s scrimmage. We can’t wait 15 plays before we get it going.”
Team (1st-pl. votes) Pts
1. Mayfield (13) 137
2. Cibola 118
3. Clovis 112
4. Las Cruces (1) 98
5. La Cueva 77
6. Highland 67
7. Rio Rancho 63
8. Alamogordo 31
9. Hobbs 24
10. Oñate 14
Others receiving votes — Manzano 13, Eldorado 10, Sandia 10, Rio Grande 7, Valley 6, Gallup 2.