History won't blink at Clovis' No. 1 preseason football ranking in the Central Section.
Eight section titles balanced over four decades say the Cougars deserve the right.
On the other hand, those with short memories will note a Clovis recession that began concurrently with the nation's economy. And what a wicked blow to Cougars pride.
The program without a losing record for 33 consecutive years went 0-10 in 2007.
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Suddenly, eighth-grade players at Clark Intermediate -- Clovis' feeder -- were crawling into Lamonica Stadium on Friday nights to watch the high school varsity.
Ryan Davies was one of them.
"Going to those games is [supposed to be] a big motivation; you want to be like them," he says four years later. "So we kind of had to find more self-motivation than looking at Lamonica Stadium for some inspiration."
Nate Palomino was one of them, too: "After that 0-10 season, people were definitely shying away from playing football at Clovis."
Dissension grew when a 1-9 season followed in 2008.
"The two grades above us were kind of haunted by the 0-10 season," Davies says.
"Then it slowly changed."
Rich Hammond replaced two-year coach Jerry Campbell and the Cougars went 3-7 in 2009. And, while the record didn't suggest so, it was then that restoration to program pride had begun.
Today's ranking is attributed largely to five players who have been starting since that '09 season -- outside linebackers Palomino and Davies, defensive end Jeffrey Caton, cornerback/receiver Eric Jett and offensive tackle Nate Newman. And nose guard Dakota Gordon and cornerback Jason Black also rank among the best at their positions in the section.
"The perception has changed," says Hammond, who authored a similar reversal at Gilroy of the Central Coast Section before being pilfered by Clovis.
Kevin Johns, the team's defensive coordinator and 15-year assistant, tried to sell his charges a year ago.
"We didn't have a great year [in 2009]," Davies says, "but the whole summer [of 2010] Coach Johns kept telling us we were going to have a Valley championship defense. Well, you know how coaches kind of spurt things out at times, but we have become one of the best."
Palomino, a bit more guarded, cited the graduation losses of 2010 defensive stars Donnell Vercher, Gil Ornelas and Taylor Ferguson: "We've got some ways to go, but we'll be fine."
Davies adds, "There's a huge comfort level when you've played with people."
A sequence that had the Cougars defeat Stockdale (6-0), Sanger (10-7), Clovis East (14-0) and Central (32-25) consecutively from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22 last year signalled Clovis' return to prominence.
The section then really took notice when the Cougars beat Edison (38-18) and El Diamante (14-7) in the Division I playoffs before losing to top-seeded and eventual champion Clovis West (19-14) in a semifinal that required two late turnovers and a game-saving pass break for the Eagles to come from behind.
Palomino, well-versed in the program's tradition as the younger brother of two previous Clovis three-year starters, Joe and Nick, knows this: "We're not going to sneak up on anybody like last year; everybody's going to give us their best game. But we're not going to settle for a loss in the semis again, either."