Cats seeking .500

Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus sends in a play with senior wide receiver Elliott Hita during last week’s win over Rio Rancho. Clovis plays longtime rival Goddard tonight in Roswell. (Staff photo: Rick White)

By Rick White: CNJ managing editor

Momentum has been as elusive for the Clovis Wildcats as a scrambling Michael Vick, with an up-and-down first five weeks leaving them searching for some kind of consistency in time for the start of district play.

A win over at Goddard tonight at the Wool Bowl in Roswell would not give Clovis a modest two-game winning heading into a bye week but a little confidence boost.

Clovis plays co-favorite Carlsbad Oct. 15 in its District 4-5A opener.

“We need to go into district play with a 3-3 record and a little momentum,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “We need to continue to do things right and do it right every time.”

The Class 4A Rockets (3-2) are riding a three-game winning streak behind the double-headed quarterback duo of Jesus Baca and Ryan Najar and turnover-producing defense.
“The big thing about them is we know they’re going to do everything in the book to win the game,” Kelley said. “You have to prepare for every formation in the world and every trick play in the world.”

“Last year (Clovis won 42-6) is the only blowout I can remember,” Kelley said. “Otherwise, every year has been a war and I expect the same thing (today).”

Baca and Najar are interchangeable at quarterback and running back based on what the Rockets are trying to do.
Baca rushed for 281 yards and passed for another 286 in a 47-41 win over Hobbs three weeks ago.

“He’s a good kid,” Goddard coach Sam Jernigan said of Baca, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior. “He’s a year older now and we’re letting him do more things.”

Najar, a 6-1, 185-pound senior, started at quarterback for New Mexico Military Institute in 2003 before transferring to Goddard in the spring.

Jernigan said the Rockets have been plagued by turnovers this season, especially fumbles.

“We need to take care of the ball,” Jernigan said. “We’ve had as many fumbles in the first five games as we’ve had in some seasons.

“If it was just one guy or something I’d just shoot him and solve the problem.”

The Rockets are just as aggressive on defense, using stunts and slants to disrupt plays before they get started.

“We’ve got to do a good job of coming off the ball and stopping their penetration,” Kelley said. “You know they’re going to come after you.

“It’s all or nothing against Goddard.”

Jernigan said expects a typical Clovis team on Friday.

“They’re big, fast and well-coached,” Jernigan said.
It’s the fast part that worries him the most.

“Against Hobbs we’d run five or six plays and score and then they’d just one play to go the other way,” Jernigan said. “I tell my kids to get faster but I guess they don’t listen.”

Game day
Clovis (2-3) at Goddard (3-2)
7:30 p.m. today
Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 27th. Goddard, Sam Jernigan, 13th.
Last meeting: 2003, Clovis 42-6
Last week: Clovis edged Rio Rancho 28-21. Goddard beat Portales 14-0 in a weather-shortened game that ended at halftime.
Basic offense/defense: Clovis, pro-set/5-2. Goddard, mulitiple/5-2.
Goddard players to watch: Jesus Baca, QB/RB, 5-9, 170, Jr.; Ryan Najar, RB/QB, 6-1, 185, Sr.; Josh Nine, LB, 5-10, 190, Jr.
What to watch for: Clovis finally got senior RB Phillip Williams untracked last week. Williams rushed for a career-high 275 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 79-yard scamper with less than two minutes left. Expect more of the same. Jernigan likes to run multiple formations and trick plays, but it all starts with his QB. Baca torched Hobbs two weeks ago for 542 totals yards — 261 rushing and 281 passing — in a 47-71 Goddard win.
Streaking: Clovis has won three straight in the longtime series between former district rivals.