Clovis News: Sports

Clovis West survives scare from Cougars

Clovis West, combining good fortune with even better plays, scored two touchdowns within 2 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter Friday night to beat Clovis 19-14 in the Central Section Division I football semifinals at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Kendall Brock and Hunter Burns scored on 5-yard runs following Dylan Green's interception and Justin Flores' fumble recovery as the top-seeded Golden Eagles advanced to next Friday's championship against Bakersfield, also here at Buchanan.

Fifth-seeded Clovis -- three weeks following a 56-14 loss to Clovis West -- led the Golden Eagles 14-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

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"They hit us in the mouth and we didn't expect it," Clovis West safety James Bitter said.

In their 40th football meeting, the underdog landed staggering blows for the first time since the first matchup back in 1979.

Then Clovis West, with its first senior class and a 1-8 team, led 14-0 before the Cougars rallied for a 26-21 win en route to a 12-1 section championship season.

Maybe the stars are aligned. Clovis West will go for a 12-1, section-championship season next week.

Third-seeded Bakersfield (10-2) reversed a 28-14 loss to Centennial Oct. 29 to throttle the No. 2 Golden Hawks 37-20 in the other semifinal.

That sets up a rematch of an epic section final played four years ago in Bakersfield. The Drillers scored 13 points in the final 9 minutes -- including a mindbending 44-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining by a 5-foot-6 kicker, Peter Mitchell -- to escape with a 19-16 win over Clovis West in the D-I final.

That was the Drillers' state-record 34th section title, and they'll march into Veterans Memorial next week with a three-year starting quarterback, Brian Burrell, charging an option offense.

"That's no fun," Eagles coach Mike Parsons said.

The alternative was Centennial quarterback Cody Kessler, who is headed to USC.

For four months, many in the section looked forward to a D-I final showdown matching Kessler and Brock, who rushed for 193 yards and his 37th and 38th touchdowns of the season Friday.

Not only were they denied that, they almost had Bakersfield against Clovis (8-5) and a Cougars defense that rocked Clovis West for much of the night behind lineman Taylor Ferguson, linebackers Nate Palomino and Dakota Gordon, and deep backs Jason Black and Donnell Vercher.

"At halftime in the first game [down 35-0], it was quiet and depressed," Palomino said. "This time we were yelling and screaming."

But it was the Eagles' defense that would have the final say with Green's interception and return to the Cougars' 5; Flores' fumble recovery on the Clovis 18; and, finally, a potentially game-saving breakup by Bitter on a perfectly thrown deep ball by Andrew Smith with 4:30 remaining.

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