There were 10 minutes remaining Friday night, Clovis High trailed top-ranked Central 12-7, had 63 total yards of offense to that point and 80 to go.
Three, four, five years ago?
"The kids believe," Cougars coach Rich Hammond said. "And belief is a really powerful thing."
Powerful is the only way to describe what No. 3 Clovis did to close out the game and an improbable 15-12 Tri-River Athletic Conference victory at Koligian Stadium.
After quarterback Jake Gatewood converted two third-down passes, Hammond pulled him and turned to a Wildcat formation with two tight ends, two wings, a fullback and Adrian Salas taking direct snaps and running the ball. It proved to be a decisive move as the Cougars battered Central for the go-ahead touchdown before regaining possession and burning the final 3:53.
Salas, who has placed fourth and seventh for championship wrestling teams in the past two state meets, plowed 32 yards on third-and-1 to set up his 2-yard touchdown run with 6 minutes to go. Then, going left in a duplicate play, he also ran in the conversion for the 15-12 lead. The lead blocks of wings Nick Nevills and McKay McNair and fullback Jordan Harper blew out the Grizzlies both times.
"Cement heads," Salas called that trio. "Just block everyone and run the ball hard; that's about it."
Adding to the odds of suddenly dominating Central's defense was the fact that Clovis' top running back, Marlon Watkins, was bent over backwards and left the game with a sprained ankle five plays into the 12-play, 80-yard scoring march.
The Cougars are 24-8 in the past three seasons after going 5-26 in the previous three in arguably the low point of an otherwise storied football history.
"Play great defense, keep ourselves in the game and find a way to win in the end -- that's been the formula," said Hammond, whose team also scored on Garrett Olson's 50-yard punt return for in the first quarter behind a crunching Salas block while improving to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the TRAC.
Nick Wilson carried 34 times for 134 yards and Tashon Smallwood had two sacks for 31 yards in losses for Central (6-1, 1-1). But the Grizzlies missed two field goals -- one blocked by Alan Crowley.
"That was a good snapshot of the postseason right there," Central coach Justin Garza said. "But by no means did we deserve to win. We left a lot of points out there with the kicking game and didn't do all of the little things that a championship team needs to do. That's a whole other standard we need to focus on."
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