For all that is Clovis North’s Bolu Olorunfunmi — one of the most bruising running backs the Central Section has known – Clovis was the tough guy in the end Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The fifth-seeded Cougars leaped back into the game in the third quarter on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Evan Geiger to J.J. Wills and tied it, 14-14, with a subsequent trick pass play. And, in arguably the play of the game, they also received an acrobatic 29-yard catch by Coltin Velasquez on third-and-9 late in the game.
But, overall, it was more about substituting finesse with brawn as they plowed No. 4 Clovis North 28-17 in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs.
“We do a little of everything, but we definitely muscled them in the fourth quarter when it counted,” said Clovis coach Rich Hammond, who has advanced his program into the semifinals for the fourth time in five years. But, while the Cougars have won eighth section titles in their history, they’re 0-3 in those recent semis.
Never miss a local story.
Clovis (8-4) will play top-seeded Edison (10-1) at Sunnyside Stadium. The Tigers crushed Centennial 42-0.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game,” Hammond said. “And I hate to say this but I think we’re due to get past this one.”
The game-sealer for Clovis was fitting — a 34-yard scoring run up the gut by 6-foot, 215-pound running back Adam Prentice for a 28-17 lead with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining.
Also a linebacker, student with a 4.1 GP:A, potential Ivy Leaguer and Bee Player of the Year candidate, Prentice scored on a 7-yard run in the first quarter on a night he had five very good friends — tackles Gabriel Quintana and Hexton Coronado, guards Tyler Collier and Aaron Cortez, and center Adam Delavega.
“You can’t do it with one guy,” Prentice said. “It takes 11 and we had great blocking up front. It was a great team effort.”
Hammond said of Prentice: “He’s a great player but an even better student and person. He embodies what you want from a guy. And when that’s your leader, you can do amazing things because he’s setting the example and taking them along.”
When Prentice met Olorunfunmi, it was a collision heard throughout northeast Clovis.
Olorunfunmi rarely, if ever, went down on first contact — the signature of a three-year career that will land him a scholarship in Westwood for UCLA.
He carried 25 times for 181 yards, including a 68-yard run that had him rip out of the grasp of three Cougars before finding his fifth gear and racing down the left sideline. That gave the Broncos (7-4) a 14-6 lead late in the second quarter.
But Clovis North, which had beaten Clovis 21-14 three weeks ago as part of a 5-0 run through the Tri-River Athletic Conference, then lost momentum when Wills — son of former Hanford great Shawn Wills — snuck far behind coverage and caught the TD pass with 5 minutes remaining in the third.
The Cougars then tied it on a reverse option pass from Fabian Serna to a diving Geiger.