TULARE -- The first losing regular season in Tim Murphy's nine years at Clovis East High is now in the rearview mirror.
And the swagger that has accompanied one of the Central Section's most successful football programs over that same stretch is back.
Playing fast and physical on defense while typically plodding and effective on offense, the 11th-seeded Timberwolves ousted No. 6 Tulare 20-7 in the opening round of the Division I playoffs Friday night at Bob Mathias Stadium.
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Clovis East opened the season ranked second in the section by The Bee, seemingly bolstered by the return of Murphy following a sabbatical from coaching in 2009. But injuries to key players, most notably one that sidelined senior quarterback Daniel Corona for the season, mounted as the Timberwolves stumbled to a 3-7 record.
Clovis East, section champions in 2003 and 2006, will play next Friday against No. 3 Bakersfield.
"As far as the team that came out tonight, that's how we should have played all year," Clovis East tight end/defensive lineman George Macias said.
Tulare, promoted into Division I after going 37-2 in D-II the past three seasons, including a title in 2008, entered averaging 43.1 points and 431 yards per game. And with the opening possession, the Redskins (9-2) marched 65 yards in 11 plays, capped by Oscar Reyes' 11-yard touchdown pass to Alex Espinoza.
But Clovis East would not break again, limiting Tulare to 156 yards the rest of the way and getting 21/2 sacks from Sam Awrabi and 11/2 from Carlos Martinez.
"Our defense had to get a feel for them in that first drive," Murphy said. "Then our kids figured it out and we adjusted."
The Timberwolves -- operating a hybrid wildcat offense -- scored all the points they would need in the second quarter on Jerry Haymon's 9-yard run and a 46-yard run by Manuel Conte, who finished with 178 yards rushing.
"It was all the blockers," Conte said. "Without them, it's not a touchdown."
Clovis East likely will be without Haymon next week after he was penalized and ejected in the third quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tulare's 1,000-yard receiver William Stallworth, who left the field in an ambulance with an apparent concussion.
"Their defensive front just killed us," Tulare coach Darren Bennett said. "When you can't run against four or five guys, it tells me we've got to get stronger next year."