Clovis is known for producing great football players — and that cultivation starts early.
Out of 80 sixth graders from across the country who were invited to the Diamond Spring Bling All-American football game in Virginia Beach on Memorial Day, three of them were Clovis kids.
What’s more: their team won, 34-21.
Luke Haines, a linebacker, running back and fullback, has played tackle football with offensive and defensive lineman Tyler Boragno since they were six years old for the Clovis Cowboys. The two Clovis Elementary students now play for Clovis Outlaws with Gettysburg Elementary student Matthew De la Cruz, a corner and safety.
Out of 975 all-American nominees, the three 12-year-olds were picked based on their stats and game film to travel across the country and showcase their skills.
“As parents we were beyond proud,” said Luke’s mother, Kristi Haines. “After only four practices with coaches they have never met, and players they have never played with, the time had come to shine.”
But the East Coast sun certainly didn’t get the message.
“It was pouring down rain and there were constant threats of thunderstorms,” Haines said. “The boys took the field, worked together as a team to move the ball on offense and hold the line on defense. As a team, they came out triumphant. It is amazing to know that our boys can compete on a national level.
“They have a solid foundation of football fundamentals that help them to succeed wherever they play.”
As Clovis Outlaws, the boys also went undefeated last season, winning the super bowls of the three leagues they participated in: West Coast Football Association, Madera Community Youth Football and Cheer, and the Valley Elite Youth Tackle Football League.
“We are looking forward to watching them all do great things in the future. We are very proud of them all and they deserve the national recognition they have received. They are also very involved in “mentoring” our younger players, said Clovis Outlaws president Jon Fortenberry
Playing for Clovis Outlaws is more than just participating in a sport, Haines said.
“They live and breathe football,” Haines said. “Football is more of a lifestyle. It’s more than just being the jocks of the school. We have good coaches who teach the boys to be good men. They teach our boys how to carry themselves, how to show leadership and to give back.”
The fifth- and sixth-grade players are asked to mentor the kindergarten through fourth-grade players, Fortenberry said.
“We urge them to introduce themselves and encourage the younger players on a regular basis. This is something that I have not seen in youth sports. The younger players look up to our 5th and 6th graders, who have proved to be excellent role models,” he said.
The boys have certainly been role models on the field, coaches said.
Tyler Boragno has always been a force to be reckoned with for opposing players and coaches,” Fortenberry said. “While not always the biggest player on the field, he definitely plays like he is. He is in tremendous shape and is able to play offense and defense the entire game, which is very uncommon for players of his positions.”
Matthew De La Cruz is one of the most exciting players to watch on the field, Fortenberry said.
“He is the type of running back that through vision and quickness, has the ability to score a touchdown on any given play. At safety, he plays with a vicious mentality and constantly wreaks havoc on opposing offenses,” he said. “Matthew is a smaller player and very young for his grade, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by watching him play. If you underestimate his abilities, he will make you pay. He is fearless on the field and shows no fear when going against bigger players.”
Luke has developed solid fundamentals in his years as a linebacker and fullback, Fortenberry said.
“His toughness, strength, knowledge and awareness (play recognition) have allowed him to excel and become one of the top linebackers in Clovis for his age,” he said. “During the offseason, he has worked hard and improved his strength, footwork and speed in preparation for junior high football.”
Luke, Tyler and Matthew will attend Clark Intermediate school in the fall.
“Clark is going to have a great team next year, that’s for sure,” Haines said.