CHS FOOTBALL: Balanced Bulldogs bounce Cats

Clovis High’s Michael Lewis sacks Artesia quarterback Landry Jones early in Friday’s matchup at Leon Williams Stadium. Jones passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns in Artesia’s 34-26 win. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

The Clovis High defense was bracing for Artesia’s vaunted passing attack, led by junior quarterback Landry Jones.

What the Wildcats weren’t counting on was the potent running of senior Jeremy Duran, who gave the state’s top-ranked Class 4A team a balanced attack.

Combined with four TD passes and a short scoring run by Jones, the Bulldogs (7-0) pulled away to a 34-26 victory over CHS on Friday night at Leon Williams Stadium.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Duran punished the Cats for 153 yards on 19 carries. Meantime, Jones was 10-for-15 for 218 yards, with two scoring tosses each to Scott Poe and Caylan Hutson.

Bulldogs coach Cooper Henderson said Duran gives his team another big weapon.

“He’s had a great year,” Henderson said. “We throw the ball a lot, but it’s really a big thing to have someone with that kind of speed.”

“We ran the ball a little more tonight than usual, just because of the way the game unfolded. Early in the game it took us a while to settle down.”

Senior running back Brian Mead carried 36 times and picked up 188 yards for the Cats (5-3), ranked second in Class 5A. Mead scored three touchdowns and added a late two-point conversion, pulling Clovis within eight points with 1:40 left.

But the Bulldogs recovered Robert North’s onside kick and, with CHS out of timeouts, went on to run out the clock.

“It comes down to the fact that we got outhit, we got outtackled and we got outplayed,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “We did some good things at times, and they we’d blow a coverage or miss an assignment.”

Junior wide receiver Bryce Hill caught five passes for the Cats for 115 yards and a touchdown. For the game, Clovis had a 383-381 edge in total offense.

“We gave up big plays,” Kelley said. “It goes back to not being able to tackle in the open field.”

Clovis forced a three-and-out following the opening kickoff and promptly followed with a 12-play, 59-yard drive that lasted more than six minutes and included two fourth-down conversions. Mead got the touchdown on a 5-yard run, but Robert North’s PAT kick was wide left.

After stalling in Clovis territory, the Bulldogs forced a punt early in the second quarter and went 55 yards in seven plays. Jones avoided a sack on a second-down play at the 20 and scrambled to the 1, then punched the ball in on the next play.

Matt Moreno added the extra point, putting Artesia ahead to stay. The Bulldogs then made it 13-6 at halftime when Jones capped a four-play, 71-yard drive by dumping the ball to Poe over the middle off play-action on a 32-yard TD effort late in the half.

The Cats ran 18 plays to just five for Artesia in the third quarter, but Mead’s fumble ended a 12-play drive at the Artesia 19. Jones then found Hutson open beyond the secondary on a 53-yard TD strike with four minutes left in the period.

Mead’s 8-yard TD run on the third play of the final quarter capped a nine-play Clovis drive and was the first of three scores in a span of 76 seconds. Poe took a short pass just off the line of scrimmage and rambled 62 yards for an Artesia score, but Mead scored on a 2-yard run on the second play after the kickoff after Jordan Mendoza and Hill connected on a 61-yard pass on first down.

Artesia went 71 yards on its next possession, capped by Jones’ 8-yard TD toss to Hutson with 5:51 left to make it 34-18.