Not an easy choice picking third-ranked Bullard High's player of the game after a 35-32 nonleague win over Clovis West on Friday night at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium.
For many, an obvious candidate is Demetrius Warren – No. 1 on the roster and maybe No. 1 among running backs in the Central Section.
Averaging 198 yards per game and 10 yards a carry coming in, he was stoned to the tune of 7 yards on his first seven carries.
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"You just have to keep leaning and leaning and something's going to pop," Bullard coach Donnie Arax said.
To follow were Warren 50- and 82-yard touchdown bursts in what would be a 227-yard, four-TD night.
"Running back coach [Corey Jackson] always tells me to keep on running and don't look back," said Warren, whose 10-yard score behind plowing pulling guard Eric Smith gave Bullard (3-1) a 35-32 lead with 5 minutes, 24 seconds remaining.
But perhaps the key man wasn't a player at all.
Making the call of the night – one in desperation – was Bullard defensive coordinator Brandon Gilbert.
After 13th-ranked Clovis West (0-4) – the state's best winless team? – toasted the Knights in the first half behind Ian Hall's 247 yards passing and Ryan Clark's 152 yards receiving, Gilbert deployed two safeties after having played with one. And that had created continual one-on-one coverage that Hall and Clark simply played catch against.
In the second half, however, Bullard rallied from a 26-21 deficit as Hall – 18 for 20 in the first two quarters – went 3 for 6 for 13 yards and Clark caught only two more passes after having 10 receptions in the first half.
"Brandon Gilbert did an awesome job," said Arax, forgiving the Golden Eagles' 507 total yards. "We prepared since the summer to stop their run and they came out firing. If we don't make that adjustment, we get killed."
Another impact performer for the Knights was Shawn Kuehter, who made the difference, actually, on a night the teams matched five touchdowns. The left-footed kicker made all five of his conversion kicks in addition to driving five kickoffs into the end zone, forcing Clovis West to begin possession each time on its 20.
At a school that has delivered state-class running backs with extraordinary consistency, Hall and Clark staged a first-half aerial clinic perhaps unlike anything in Clovis West history. Clark, making his first appearance since a concussion in a season-opening 31-30 loss to Merced in double overtime, caught touchdown passes of 29 and 32 yards in the second quarter.
But that was offset somewhat by the Warren Report.
"He's a great back, one of the better backs we've ever had," Arax said.
Hunter Burns rushed for 195 yards for Clovis West – 147 in the second half.