For all its glory — namely, nine Central Section championships in the past 28 years — Clovis West High won a football game Thursday night that has to go down as one of its biggest ever.
The conditions appear relatively tame, a 38-28 Tri-River Athletic Conference victory over Central for a Golden Eagles team that arrived 3-5 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
-- This was a program that had gone 8-22 under coach Mike Parsons since he arrived from State Small Schools bowl champion Modesto Christian in 2010 and burst through the section door with a 12-1 season and the Division I title.
-- The Eagles hadn't suffered a three-year stretch like this since going 6-26 in their infancy under coach Chet Francisco. When he was flushed, coach Max Newberry took over for nine years and away the program flew.
-- Central marched into Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium on Halloween night appropriately dressed — in orange and black — and, much more important, ranked third in the section and atop the TRAC with a 3-0 record following a 30-14 drubbing of defending D-I champion Clovis North.
But it was No. 8 Clovis West that delivered the punishment on this night, and the Eagles did so with Parson's signature shotgun/wing-T offense behind running backs Tristan Edwards and Taylor Bustamante while moving into a tie for the TRAC lead.
Imagine that for a team that opened 0-3 and 1-5 — granted against one of the strongest schedules in the state — as Bustamante rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns, and Edwards another 125 yards and another score.
Not to suggest there hadn't been some positive signals for the Eagles, who will close the regular season next Friday at No. 4 Clovis (6-2, 2-1).
They had beaten No. 9 Bullard 27-14 and pressed No. 1 Edison in a 24-17 loss. And both of those occurred without Bustamante, who broke his hand in the first quarter of a season-opening 40-39 loss to Merced and missed the following five games.
"We had been playing left-handed all year. Nobody gets that; nobody understands that," said Parsons, referring mainly to the Bustamante absence. "But we finally got healthy at the right time, we got some major pieces back, and the kids believed."
Asked what the win meant, not only to the program but to him personally, he got a bit emotional.
After pausing, he found his words: "The last three years have been so tough. A think we're at a point where we can turn the corner and get us back to where we're supposed to be."
Clovis and Clovis North (6-2, 2-1) will play tonight at The Vet.
Central will be heavily favored to earn a piece of only its third TRAC title since it joined the league in 1996, according to section historian Bob Barnett, when it plays at home next Friday against Clovis East (2-6, 0-3).
Nick Szpor passed for 248 yards and Nick Wilson rushed for 217 and three TDs for Central.
Parsons pointed to the difficulty of the Grizzlies coming off their point-to win over Clovis North, which had beaten them twice last year: "That was such an emotional win for them. I mean, they put a year into that win right there, so it's hard to get up again and be super excited for us."
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