The king lives. Somehow.
"We're going all the way," said Clovis West High's Wesley Segal – and he meant it – after making the play of the game as the Golden Eagles shocked second-ranked and previously unbeaten Clovis 29-27 Friday night at a rain-soaked Lamonica Stadium.
Segal stopped Roderick Arms inches short of the goal line – replay, anybody? – on a 2-point conversion attempt with 2:33 remaining.
"I stopped him, that's it," Segal said. "I knew I got him."
Clovis West then knew it had the win – a 10th straight in the football series, and the most improbable of all over the Cougars – when Ian Hall rifled a 14-yard completion to Ryan Clark on fourth-and-10 with a minute remaining.
Amazing considering the Golden Eagles limped into the game with a 2-7 record.
"Our guys have been so close all year, and they finally got it done," Eagles coach Mike Parsons said. "We knew they had it in them, we just had to get it out of them. We're ready for the playoffs."
Seeding for the Central Section's six divisions will be determined this morning in the Porterville office of commissioner Jim Crichlow. He'll team with three assistants in attempting to unscramble representatives from the Tri-River Athletic Conference, including Clovis (9-1, 4-1), which was denied its first outright league crown in 15 years while finishing in a first-place tie with No. 5 Central (8-2, 4-1).
And what to do with 15th-ranked Clovis West (3-7, 3-2), which nearly upset No. 4 Bullard and No. 6 Clovis North?
The Eagles won their ninth section title in a 12-1 season last year before experiencing a frustrating fall this season, struck with repeated injuries and defections while seeing a roster erode to as few as 27.
And, even Friday, the setbacks continued with several players going down, including Matt Smith. The senior defensive back was removed from the stadium in an ambulance after losing his helmet in a first-quarter play. He gave players on the field and fans a thumbs-up before leaving.
Clovis West took a 22-21 lead in the final seconds of the first half on a 14-yard pass on 4th-and-goal from Hall to Kyle Moore, and then a 2-point conversion run by Hunter Burns.
The Eagles, benefiting from a two Clovis fumbles, made it 29-21 with 8:29 remaining on Taylor Bustamonte's 3-yard run and Drew Walters' extra point.
Then it was a matter of holding on behind a defense led by junior safety Mitchell Francis.
That didn't seem possible after the Cougars, despite playing without star running back Yoon Conner (leg injury), had blown the Eagles off the line of scrimmage in the first half with a power ground attack led by a veteran front and backs Dakota Gordon and Nate Palomino. The three-year defensive stars rarely left the field, finishing with 211 and 93 rushing yards, respectively.
Clovis West bolted to a 14-0 lead in the first 4 minutes on a 28-yard run by Taylor Bustamonte, who finished with 115 yards rushing, a 35-yard run by Burns and a Hall conversion pass to Joseph Garcia. Burns' TD followed Sean Morris' interception.
It was then that Clovis coach Rich Hammond painted the ball green and turned it into a backyard brawl. The Cougars would run on their next 29 consecutive plays while mounting scoring marches of 80, 45 and 90 yards. Gordon carried 20 times for 163 yards in the first half, including a 30-yard TD.