Clovis News: Sports

Clovis High tops Edison in D-I football playoffs

The pleading began about 1 1/2 years ago by Kevin Johns, Clovis High's assistant coach both in track and field and football.

Then taking the baton and continuing the appeal was Rich Hammond, who had just been named Cougars football coach.

It was all about fitting Donnell Vercher with pads.

View stats from this game

Says Hammond: "It was, 'Donnell, you need to be playing football; Donnell, you need to be playing football; Donnell, you need to be playing football.'"

He did, and look at him now. Even more, look at the Clovis football program.

The Cougars, 5-26 the past three seasons, won their first Central Section playoff game in four years Friday night at Lamonica Stadium -- a 38-18 Division I conquest of Edison.

And, again, it was all about Donnell Vercher.

"They asked me to play, I told them, 'OK, I want to play free safety,' and I've been rockin' ever since," the senior said after intercepting two passes and rushing for 53 yards and three touchdowns against the 12th-seeded Tigers (4-7).

Fifth-seeded Clovis (7-4) will advance to a quarterfinal next Friday against No. 4 El Diamante (9-1), a first-year D-I member and West Yosemite League champion, which had a bye.

Andrew Smith, the Cougars' 6-foot-5 senior quarterback, is questionable for the game after leaving midway through the fourth quarter Friday with a sprained left ankle.

"It's pretty swollen," he said afterward, the ankle wrapped in ice as he rested on a trainer's table.

It was also against Edison that Clovis had last won a playoff -- 35-21 here at Lamonica on Nov. 9, 2006.

And it appeared Friday's win would be achieved in a walk when touchdown runs of 19 yards by sophomore Yoon Conner and 3 and 4 yards by Vercher gave the Cougars a 21-0 lead with 4 minutes and 13 seconds remaining in the first half.

But that was before Edison sophomore quarterback Khari McGee began lighting it up.

It was his 48-yard completion to Vadal McDonald that set up Shaquille Moseley's 16-yard touchdown run. And then it was McGee scoring passes of 16 yards to Jeremy Williamson and 13 to McDonald that hacked the deficit to 21-18 late in the third quarter.

But the Tigers would get no closer as, in the fourth quarter, Vercher -- taking direct snaps in the team's wildcat formation -- scored on an 11-yard run, Anthony Arcelus blasted a 46-yard field goal in chilly, wet conditions, Conner added a 35-yard run, and Vercher and Jonny Vietty had interceptions.

Related stories from Fresno Bee