In 14 years as football coach Tim Murphy’s deputy at Clovis East High School and, most recently, Clayton Valley-Concord, Ryan Reynolds has known little other than championship-level performance.
In Reynolds’ years at those programs, the teams went a combined 129-46 with 10 league titles, five section crowns, four section runner-up finishes and two state silver medals.
Clovis East’s glory years with Murphy and Reynolds were 2001-08, when the Timberwolves double-winged the opposition into misery while going 76-22 with six Tri-River Athletic Conference titles, two Central Section championships and two runner-up finishes, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
No top-division program in the section was better.
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Not the mighty Bakersfield Drillers. Not Clovis West. Not Bullard.
“They were feared,” Bullard coach Donnie Arax says.
But today, that is nothing but historical recitation. Clovis East football has eroded from first to worst.
The T’wolves have lost a section-record 35 consecutive league games in seven years and haven’t had a winning season since 2008.
Now, coach Jim O’Brien has been replaced by Reynolds.
And why in the name of unprecedented Clovis Unified shame would he take a job many consider the section’s worst?
I have very strong belief in what I believe and what it takes to be successful. I’ve been in highly, highly successful high school programs and seen what it takes.
New Clovis East football coach Ryan Reynolds, The Fresno Bee Player of the Year in 1995 at Clovis West
“I have very strong belief in what I believe and what it takes to be successful,” says The Fresno Bee’s Player of the Year as a tight end/linebacker for section championship Clovis West in 1995. “I’ve been in highly, highly successful high school programs and seen what it takes.
“Ultimately, the deciding factor was coming home. I absolutely love the place, the Clovis East kids, the type of kids they are, and where I had so many good memories. Clovis East kids have a chip on their shoulders; they have something to prove. And I need to get that chip going in the positive direction.”
That will require a 180-degree reversal.
“I know he’s got an uphill battle,” Murphy says, “but if there’s anybody out there to do it or at least get that thing respectable, he’s the guy. He’s everything, he just doesn’t have a weakness. He’s reliable, the whole package, he really is. He knows the blueprint.
“We’ve got some guys to replace him and they’re loyal as you can get, but there’s no replacing that guy as a coach. I’m missing Ryan already.”
What’s missing at Clovis East isn’t the athlete with prototype major-college size and talent – that’s not what the program’s about or ever has been, even under Murphy.
Missing, rather, has been the undersized but physically defined athlete and a roster of 70 with an undeniable emotional flame.
35 Clovis East’s consecutive Tri-River Athletic Conference losses in seven years, a Central Section record
An opposing coach who asked to remain anonymous was astounded last fall at seeing a T’wolves team arrive not only with just 25 varsity players from a Clovis Unified school of 2,318, but, additionally, a team clearly void of physical presence – nothing to be confused with those groomed with Murphy impact in the weight room.
That brawn has followed Murphy to Clayton Valley, where the Ugly Eagles – yes, that’s their true mascot name – have gone 60-9, including 25-0 in the Diablo Valley League in his five seasons. Reynolds has been the defensive coordinator in the past four.
“All three of our linebackers this season were under 180 pounds and they just ripped things up,” Murphy says. “And two of them didn’t start as freshmen. Ryan’s just good, man, he’s good. And he’s probably the best social science teacher we’ve ever had. He’s a great teacher, he’s amazing, and the kids love him from the nerdiest guy who doesn’t play football to the football stud.
“Long story short, the guy knows what to do.”
And now for the Reynolds leap.
What is there to suggest Clovis East can climb the competitive Division I ladder and back into view with Central, Clovis, Clovis West, Buchanan and Clovis North in the deep TRAC – in addition to the caliber of Bullard and Edison in the County/Metro Athletic Conference and Bakersfield and Liberty-Bakersfield in the Southwest Yosemite League?
The only reason the T’wolves haven’t been dropped to D-II for the playoffs – maybe even D-III by now – under the section realignment competitive equity model is because Clovis Unified vanity hasn’t allowed it.
Section schools must petition to avoid going up a division if they feel it’s not justified, but can automatically reject dropping down.
And, while street talk that Clovis Unified finally would concede to a Clovis East football demotion has gathered steam, Clovis Unified athletic director Steve France says it won’t happen.
“We’ve talked as a district, and with those in the Clovis East area,” he says, “and the consensus is we will continue a high standard with all kids competing with the best. We don’t want to shortchange anything; we want everyone to get equal opportunity competing with the best.”
Not only have the T’wolves gone 0-5 in seven consecutive TRAC seasons, they’ve been outscored by an average of 24.4 points in those games. Last season, that average was 39.4. O’Brien mutually agreed with school officials to step down, France says.
Clovis East’s projected attendance growth and a talented freshman class have stirred optimism in the face of the dreadful football pattern.
The Clovis district’s booming southeast construction forecasts a Clovis East enrollment of 3,000 in three years.
“Clovis East is the most growing area in our district,” says France. “And I think with that growth, the great freshman class coming through and Ryan coming back with a strong weight program on his terms, they’re in the right place.”
For all their success in the rousing start of a Clovis East program launched in 2001, Murphy and Reynolds also were involved in the initial decline.
Murphy took the 2009 season off for personal reasons and the T’wolves went 4-7 under Reynolds as interim coach.
Murphy then returned for two seasons – admittedly one too long – and went 4-8 and 1-9 without winning a league game before resigning.
And they haven’t won in the TRAC since.
“I’m not naive about wins and losses and their effect,” says Reynolds, who’s now teaching physical education and weight training at Clovis East. “I’ve got to get the kids excited about football again.
“It will definitely be a big task getting more players out there. I’m a humble person, but I also have a lot of confidence in what I know and what to do. A lot of people around here are talking about bringing Clovis East back to where it was, and I’m excited, too.”
History of Clovis East High football
Year-by-year with the Timberwolves, including overall and league records and head coach.
- 2001 8-4 (didn’t play in a league) Tim Murphy
- 2002 8-3, 2-1 (co-1st) Murphy
- 2003 12-1, 3-0 (1st) Murphy
- 2004 10-3, 4-1 Murphy
- 2005 9-2, 5-0 (1st) Murphy
- 2006 12-1, 4-1 (co-1st) Murphy
- 2007 8-4, 4-1 (co-1st) Murphy
- 2008 9-4, 4-1 (co-1st) Murphy
- 2009 4-7, 2-3 Ryan Reynolds
- 2010 4-8, 0-5 Murphy
- 2011 1-9, 0-5 Murphy
- 2012 2-9, 0-5 Jim O’Brien
- 2013 2-9, 0-5 O’Brien
- 2014 1-10, 0-5 O’Brien
- 2015 3-8, 0-5 O’Brien
- 2016 0-10, 0-5 O’Brien
Source: Bob Barnett