Clovis High, blending power, finesse and a touch of trickery, won its biggest game yet Thursday night in a long march from humility.
The top-ranked Cougars, winning their 15th game in two seasons after going 5-26 from 2007-09, remained unbeaten this season by defeating No. 7 Central 21-7 in a Tri-River Athletic Conference game at Lamonica Stadium.
"We've got to stay focused and finish it out," said Rich Hammond, Clovis' third-year coach.
A combination of 16 championship league and Central Section banners from 1970 to 2001 hang in Clovis blue and gold above the home bleachers on the north side of Lamonica.
There's actually one missing as the Cougars last won TRAC and section titles in 2002.
Not since then have they had such a balance of talent and experience as they do now, although they returned several accomplished players from a 2010 team that went 8-5 and nearly knocked off eventual Division I champion Clovis West in the semifinals.
And Central (5-2, 1-1), which had averaged 42.5 points while winning four straight, felt the range of Clovis' strength.
"They're very good, they took advantage of scoring opportunities and we did not," said coach Casey Quinn, whose Grizzlies failed to score twice after penetrating the Cougars 10.
The first time, with Clovis leading 21-7, Cougars standout junior safety Jason Black intercepted Michael Baker in the end zone.
C.J. Broussard and Roderick Arms also pilfered passes from Baker, equaling his interception total for the season coming in.
Clovis (7-0, 2-0), which has gone wire to wire so far as The Bee's top-ranked team, also denied the Grizzlies on fourth-and-4 from the Cougars 10 when sophomore lineman Nicholas Nevills tackled Justin Lea for a 2-yard loss after linebacker Adrian Salas had disrupted the play.
Nate Palomino, one of five Clovis three-year starters, dominated at linebacker and in the power wildcat formation, rushed for two touchdowns. In the play of the game, he also completed a 24-yard pass to Dakota Gordon on fourth-and-2 late in the fourth quarter.
The jump pass advanced the ball to the Central 7. One play later, Palomino scored from 6 yards out for a 21-7 lead with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Yoon Conner carried 23 times for 122 yards for the Cougars.
And left-handed quarterback Jaryd Weakley completed 10 of 15 passes for 150 yards and a score.