Senior adapts to role for Cats

Clovis senior Jonathan Sweet (left) listens to a post-practice talk from coach Eric Roanhaus on Thursday at the high school. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ sports writer

Jonathan Sweet’s football career at Clovis is coming full circle.

With multiple injuries at the linebacker spot next to him, the 6-foot,185-pound senior has been thrust into even more of a leadership role than normal.

“The last couple weeks we’ve been down to our third- and fourth-string linebackers,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “He does all of our checks and gets everyone lined up on defense. That is where he contributes the most.”

Sweet can relate to the backup linebackers — he used to be one.

“When he was a sophomore we were kinda in the same situation,” Kelley said. “We had some injuries and we had to bring him up late in the year. I told him that (then senior) Jeff Epps helped him out and got him lined up, and he needs to do the same favor for those guys. Be a leader for them.”

Sweet said Epps’ leadership was invaluable.

“He was what I am now,” Sweet said. “He inspired me to be better than I was, to get better and better every year, and I have.”

Kelley said Sweet’s improvement is due in large part to his dedication in the film room.

“He is a student of the game,” Kelley said. “Him and coach (Darrell) Davis spend a lot of time together studying film and talking about different things.”

Sweet said he watches film every day after practice for about an hour and a half.

In addition to leadership and field smarts, Sweet has been bringing down a lot of ball carriers. Last week at Rio Rancho, the senior had 14 tackles, two for losses.

“He’s getting a lot more physical,” Kelley said. “He’s going a good job of recognizing sets and reading his keys.”

Sweet is Clovis’ leading tackler this season with 53 — 20 more than any other Wildcat.

Sweet’s experience will be important tonight when Goddard (4-1) brings its bag of tricks to Leon Williams Stadium.

“We’ve played Goddard a lot over the years,” Kelley said. “They’re gonna run every trick play in the book. They run the hide-out play up the sidelines, double passes, reverses, so you’ve got to be prepared for that.”

Led by senior quarterback Jesus Baca, Goddard has won four straight games while averaging 34 points a contest.
Kelley said discipline is the key to stopping the Rockets’ unconventional offense.

“The biggest thing is you have to do your job,” Kelley said. “If you do your job and don’t go to sleep, you’re fine.”

Kelley said the other concern for his team is containing Baca.

“Number 11 is the one we have to stop,” Kelley said. “He’s going to run the ball probably 70 percent of the time. He throws the ball well enough to beat you, but mainly we have to stop him on the run.”

Sweet won’t have to stop Baca alone. Kelley said Wheeler (concussion) is expected to play, while Moore (separated shoulder) has been cleared to practice and should be back soon.

Goddard at Clovis
7:30 p.m. today
Leon Williams Stadium
Goddard 4-1, Clovis 4-1.
Coaches: Goddard, Sam Jernigan, 15th year. Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 28th
Last meeting: 2004, Clovis shut out the Rockets 31-0.
Last week: Goddard beat Portales 42-0. Clovis beat Rio Rancho 20-14.
Goddard players to watch: Jesus Baca, 5-9, 180, Sr., QB/DB; Tommy Spangler, 5-9, 180, Sr., RB/LB; Josh Nine, 5-11, 200, Sr., OL/LB
Keys to the game: Goddard is averaging 34 points a game during its four-game win streak. Baca is the key. Jernigan likes his trick plays, so staying disciplined on defense is key for Wildcats. Junior Brian Mead is turning into a special back behind the Wildcats’ massive offensive line, while senior QB Devin Sweet is coming off his best game of the season.
By the numbers: Clovis has beaten Goddard four straight in the suddenly lopsided series between the former district rivals, including 73-6 the last two seasons.