It was Clovis High School 35, Bullard 28 in Round I at Lamonica Stadium on Friday night – and surely there will be another, right?
The second-ranked Cougars lost a 14-point lead, escaped a near-disastrous pooch kickoff recovery by No. 5 Bullard because of a penalty with the score tied in the fourth quarter, then received a clutch pass from Trey Lake and game-sealing rushing by Samir Allen while improving to 3-0 before a crowd of nearly 6,000.
The nonleague thriller would be tough to beat in the Central Section Division I playoffs, but a rematch would be no surprise with Clovis of the Tri-River Athletic Conference and Bullard (1-2) of the County/Metro Athletic Conference.
Cougars coach Rich Hammond emphasized this: The win came two weeks after Bullard routed Central 24-3 in a season opener.
And it was No. 12 Central that marched into Kern County on Friday night and knocked out No. 1 and defending D-I champion Liberty-Bakersfield 38-0 in arguably the state stunner to date behind first-year coach Kyle Biggs.
I’m just excited to get out of here with a win.
Clovis coach Rich Hammond
“Bullard’s a good football team, and I’m just excited to get out of here with a win,” Hammond said. “Bullard beat Central and what did Central do to Liberty? They thundered them. That tells me Bullard’s a real good team.”
The Knights trailed 21-7 in the third quarter but tied it on short runs out of their wing-T attack by Bradley Jorge and their projected future star, sophomore Marcus Fulcher.
That was all made possible by the command of third-year starting quarterback Jack Taylor, who passed for 163 yards and rushed for 65.
Bullard’s tying TD by Jorge with 9:06 remaining was set up by Davion Franklin’s interception and 25-yard return to the Clovis 25.
Following Jorge’s score, the Knights had Brandon Simonian’s pooch kickoff caught by teammate Parker Jacobs as Bullard fans erupted in the stadium’s south bleachers.
But it was an illegal recovery because the ball never hit the ground – required to execute an onside kick. The official interpretation is “illegal touching.”
The Cougars, D-I runners-up in 2015, then responded with a five-play, 49-yard drive closed by Nash Vidmar’s 1-yard run with 6:40 to go. Lake completed a 38-yard pass to Tyson Fraser on third and 3, two plays preceding the TD.
Clovis then took a 35-21 lead on Allen’s 10-yard run with 2:31 remaining.
Allen finished with 127 yards on 14 carries. He missed his junior season with a broken leg after making All-TRAC as a sophomore.
Vidmar rushed for 54 yards and two scores as the Cougars punished the Knights up front behind tackles Seth Nevills and Cole Acevedo, center Anthony Prentice, guards Eric Delk, R.G. Salcedo and Kenny Blowers, and tight end Clayton Alexander.
Leading Clovis’ defense was tackle Spencer Smith, whose 13 tackles included a stop of Taylor for no gain on fourth and 1 on the Cougars’ 42 late in the third quarter.