Injury bug bites Cats early

CHS junior quarterback Jordan Mendoza, center, calls a play for the offense during Thursday’s practice. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

The Clovis High football team heads into its annual preseason scrimmage against Las Cruces High today minus one of its most experienced players.

Junior strong safety Diondre Hunter suffered a knee injury during practice on Wednesday when he slipped while making a cut. CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said Hunter was to undergo an MRI on Thursday.

He said it appeared he may have suffered a torn ACL, which would put him out for the season.

“That’s the one guy that’s actually played back there (secondary),” said Kelley, the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator. “But now we’ll be able to get a look at some other guys.”

Senior Cobey Isbell will probably get the first crack at stepping into the position.

The scrimmage between the Cats and Bulldawgs is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Tularosa High School.

Clovis convincingly handled the Bulldawgs in last year’s preseason scrimmage in Roswell, then handed Cruces a 42-6 pasting in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs when senior fullback Tanner Fickling scored three first-quarter touchdowns on runs of 65 or more yards.

Las Cruces went just 3-8 last season, a rare down season under veteran coach Jim Miller.

“We didn’t do what we’d planned on doing last year,” Miller said. “We just didn’t play very well, but we have a little more sense of urgency this year.”

The Bulldawgs are looking at starting perhaps four or five sophomores this season, Miller said, “not because we have to, (but) because they’re pretty darned good.”

Miller is beginning his 18th season at Cruces, and ninth as the head coach. He said the team’s last losing season came in 1995 (4-7).

Kelley said the coaching staff doesn’t know a lot about this year’s personnel for the Bulldawgs. That said, he added that the Cats have plenty of concerns of their own with only a handful of returning starters back.

“We’re going to have to play well to compete,” he said. “They just had one of those years last year that you’re going to have in some point in time. They’ll definitely be competitive and they’ll definitely be physical.

“The things we have to work on in the next couple of weeks is our execution and just being physical. Right now, defensively we’ve got to get to where we’ll hit people.”

Clovis kicks off the 2006 campaign a week from today at Leon Williams Stadium against Las Cruces Mayfield, which handed the Cats their only two losses a year ago en route to the 5A state championship.