Cats move into finals of own invitational

Clovis High junior Luis Esparza (12) battles New Mexico Military’s Elliot Girard (5) for the ball iduring the Wildcats’ 2-0 win over NMMI on Friday in the Clovis Invitational at CHS. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

At the start of the second half, the numbers on the scoreboard were getting hard to make out. By the end of the game, the scoreboard itself was almost entirely obscured by darkness.

But, with days like these, the Clovis High boys soccer team might not mind at all entertaining opponents at the football practice field.

Due to wet conditions at Yucca Junior High, where one field is outfitted with lights for night play, games for the first round of the Clovis Invitational were moved to the field just north of Rock Staubus Gymnasium on the CHS campus.

The host Wildcats were among the big winners on the day, taking a 2-0 victory over NMMI in their opener and then beating Deming 6-0 in the nightcap — a game played in precious little daylight at the final buzzer.

“This isn’t our field. When we play late, we usually have lights,” said senior Angel Fernandez, who booted home a nice left-footed rebound shot in the Deming game to cap the Wildcats’ scoring. “We’re not used to playing in this.”

Clovis (2-0) got two goals from Luis Esparza in the opener against the Colts. Esparza, a junior, would also connect on another shot in the second victory of the day.

“I don’t think, in Clovis history, anybody has ever played out here on this field,” said senior Josh Bussen, who was in goal for the majority of the two shutouts.

Like Esparza, senior Scott Elliott sent home a pair of goals in the finale while senior Devin Aragon also scored. The scoring in the Clovis-Deming began when Jayme Nauman found net on a penalty kick for a 1-0 Clovis lead.

Bussen said that his time in goal wasn’t particularly difficult, thanks to his teammates’ control of the ball.

“They limited the other teams to the bare minimum,” Bussen said. “I had to make a couple of saves, but not too many.”

Clovis coach Shaun Gill and his assistants began casing the town for possible alternate locations early Friday morning before deciding on the CHS football practice field.

On Saturday, the championship — at 5 p.m. — will be played at either Clovis High or at Yucca Junior High, again depending on field conditions at Yucca.

The opponent will be a familiar one, no matter where the venue, as the Cats face Hobbs in the title game of the tourney.

“Just now, talking to them, they (Clovis players) were very enthusiastic and looking forward to playing them,” said Gill, a Hobbs graduate. “I think they’re fired up and I know Hobbs is.

“Basically, it’s a preview of district.”