Add another memorable chapter to the Clovis High School football team’s adventures in Kern County.
For the eighth time in nine trips since Rich Hammond took over as coach, the Cougars won in Bakersfield.
Six of those games have been decided by one score, including the past three by one point after a 28-27 victory by The Bee’s Central Section top-ranked Cougars over No. 11 Stockdale on Friday.
“It’s not out of the ordinary going down there and playing a close game and our kids having to overcome adversity,” Hammond said. “It’s the nature of the beast when we go down there and play.”
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Clovis (4-0) prevailed on a night when it was flagged for 15 penalties for 164 yards, including pass-interference penalties that extended two Stockdale scoring drives.
The first, on fourth-and-goal from the Clovis 4, led to Elisha Ortiz’s 2-yard run that put Stockdale ahead 21-14 late in the third quarter.
The second, on a third-and-15 from the Clovis 35, eventually led to Jacob Ruley’s 15-yard strike to Jalen Smith on fourth-and-4 with 8.5 seconds left that made it 28-27.
It’s not out of the ordinary going down there and playing a close game and our kids having to overcome adversity. It’s the nature of the beast when we go down there and play.
Clovis coach Rich Hammond on a 28-27 victory over Stockdale, the team’s eighth win in its past nine trips to Bakersfield
Stockdale (3-1) elected to go for two and the win, with Ortiz stuffed on the conversion run by Clayton Alexander and Mason Rice.
“We go for the win. We are trained to win,” Stockdale coach Brett Shelton told the Bakersfield Californian. “It’s as simple as that. Life’s too short to play it safe.”
But Clovis players stormed the field and were flagged for an excessive celebration, which allowed Stockdale to attempt an onside kick from the Cougar 45.
Tyson Fraser, who caught three touchdown passes on the night, recovered at the Clovis 31, allowing the Cougars to survive another trip to Bakersfield, where they beat Centennial 28-27 last season, Stockdale 21-20 in 2014, Centennial 28-21 in 2013, Liberty 20-17 in the 2013 playoffs, Centennial 28-22 in double-overtime in 2012 and Stockdale 6-0 in 2010 during a series of tightly contested games.
“Any time you go down there, if you can get a win it’s a good thing,” Hammond said. “It’s a tough place to win, and we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
Trailing 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, Fraser caught touchdown passes of 73 and 55 yards from Trey Lake to give Clovis a 28-21 lead.
Lake, who finished 18 of 30 for 338 yards, also connected with Fraser for a 26-yard touchdown and Alexander for a 22-yard score in a first half that ended with Clovis failing to produce points after a first-and-goal situation in the closing seconds.
Penalties on three straight plays backed up the Cougars from the Stockdale 6 to the 50.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Hammond said. “I felt like we faced adversity and found a way to get it done. These games are character builders. When you face something like that again, the kids know what to do when their feet are in the fire.”
Clovis hosts Centennial on Sept. 23, while also pointing toward a Tri-River Athletic Conference showdown with surging third-ranked Central on Oct. 14.
Rangers’ fantastic finish – If No. 16 Redwood ends a 12-year league title and/or 20-year section championship drought, the Rangers will look back on Sept. 16 as a galvanizing moment.
That was when Redwood erased a 12-point deficit in the final 5:48 to overcome No. 13 Tulare Western 27-26, the go-ahead score coming on Frankie Ayon’s 10-yard pass to Kobe Garner with 24 seconds remaining in the game played before an announced crowd of 4,000 at Tulare’s Bob Mathias Stadium.
“That was huge, especially to do it on the road,” Rangers coach Shaun Ball said. “Now with homecoming next week, it gives us a bump going into league play.”
Redwood, which hasn’t won a West Yosemite title since 2004 or a section crown since 1996, will open league play Sept. 23 against two-time defending champion Lemoore. The Rangers will be riding a four-game winning streak that looked improbable after being limited to 38 yards through their first possession of the second half and trailing 14-0 against the Mustangs (3-1).
The Rangers scored on their final four possessions, also getting a 4-yard touchdown run by Michael Harris, a 2-yard run by Ayon, and a 22-yard strike from Ayon to Garner.
“We had our heads down for a moment, but we didn’t give up,” said Ayon, who rebounded from a 9-yard first half to pass for 218 yards. “We kept poised and kept battling back, and finished together as a team.”
Redwood got the ball for the final time with 1:33 left. An intentional-grounding call with a minute left forced the Rangers into fourth-and-16 from the Tulare Western 36. Ayon escaped a fierce pass rush and hit a leaping Cooper Allen for a 31-yard gain.
That set the stage for Garner, who hauled in a perfectly placed fade from Ayon for the game winner.
“Coach gave me a two, which is our fade route, and said to make a play,” Garner said. “So I had to come up with a play for our team. I dropped a few balls in the first half, so I had to make up for them in the end.”
Trailblazers soaring – Golden West has never won a section football title.
Gonzalo Rodriguez and Co. are out to change that.
Rodriguez rushed for 215 yards and five touchdowns Friday in a 52-35 win over Madera South that sent the Trailblazers to 3-0, the program’s best start since opening 4-0 in 2001, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Golden West is one of five undefeated teams in Division IV, a group that also includes reigning champion Chowchilla (3-0), The Bee’s No. 17 Selma (4-0), Wasco (3-0) and Chavez (3-0).
The kids really love the historical aspect of it, seeing what hasn’t been done in a long time. There are a lot of seniors on this team who want to win the first section championship in Golden West history.
Golden West coach Paul Preheim on the program’s best start (3-0) since 2001.
“The kids really love the historical aspect of it, seeing what hasn’t been done in a long time,” sixth-year Trailblazers coach Paul Preheim said. “There are a lot of seniors on this team who want to win the first section championship in Golden West history.”
The Trailblazers are averaging 42.3 points a game with a wing-T offense coordinated by former Reedley and Immanuel coach Stan Kanawyer that has featured Gonzalez, as well as running backs Ryan Cook and Ian Kelly, rotating quarterbacks Payton Allen and Tyson Sandri and an offensive line made up of three-year center Eli Luna, tackles Zach Foley and Felix Peraza and guards Joseph Felix and Andrew Klorman.
Golden West has finished with a winning record just 11 times in 36 seasons since launching its program as Visalia’s third high school in 1980, according to Barnett. But these Trailblazers have their sights set on a section crown.
“This has been building for the last few years,” Preheim said. “This (senior) class has really worked its butts off.
“This team can win as many games as it wants to as long as it keeps up its work ethic.”
The Trailblazers close nonleague play Sept. 23 at fellow D-IV contender Exeter before opening West Yosemite League action Sept. 30 against rival Redwood.
Golden Eagles lose WR – Clovis West lost junior receiver Gabe Solorio to a season-ending broken leg during Friday’s 28-27 loss at Rocklin.
Golden Eagles coach George Petrissans said the injury appeared to happen after Solorio caught a screen pass and got his leg caught on the stadium’s field turf as he was tackled.
Solorio was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. He had surgery on his left tibia and fibula Saturday morning, Petrissans said, and is expected to make a full recovery.
Sixth-ranked Clovis West returns to action Sept. 23 at Veterans Memorial Stadium, where it hosts No. 5 Bullard in a nonleague game.