The tale of two neighboring Clovis Unified football programs — one regaining traction, the other losing it in startling fashion — continued Friday night at Lamonica Stadium.
It was here in the first round of the Central Section Division I playoffs that Clovis blended senior quarterback Evan Geiger with a bus load of youth and defeated Clovis East 48-27.
This occurred a month after the Cougars whipped the Timberwolves 61-35 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference as part of their six-game winning streak in the series.
Clovis has won by an average of 24 points in the process.
The Cougars are 43-17 in the past five seasons after going 5-26 the previous three.
The Timberwolves are 14-52 in the past six seasons after going 77-22 with two section titles and six TRAC crowns in the previous eight under coach Tim Murphy.
How to explain? Count the ways.
• Murphy left Clovis East and Rich Hammond arrived at Clovis, though it should be noted Murphy went 5-17 in his last two seasons with the Timberwolves, in 2010-11.
• That plunge made clear the talent cycle had reversed at Clovis East. And Clovis, conversely, then began marching to the altar with a magnificent marriage of multiple-sport athletes, specifically in football and wrestling. The Cougars in recent years have produced Cal-Hi Sports State Athletes of the Year in football/wrestlers Nick Nevills (overall state honor) and Adrian Salas (state D-I). And the formula has been extended on this year’s football team with running back/linebacker Adam Prentice, running back/defensive back Josh Hokit and DB Lane Barnes.
• The rebirth of Cougars football has coincided with the return of Gettysburg Elementary to its attendance area, and from Clovis East. That has led to a numbers game that favors Clovis decidedly. The Cougars’ enrollment is 2,826; the Timberwolves 2,081 — smallest in Clovis Unified, according to district athletic director Steve France.
But Clovis East is not without hope. District officials note that their six elementary schools are “busting at the seams” in enrollment, and that property has been purchased at Temperance and Clinton avenues, where an additional elementary school will be built in a couple years.
Clovis East athletic director Anthony Morales also points to a strong freshman class and the fact coach Jim O’Brien is building from the ground up — from fifth grade on — to put Clovis East football “back on the map.”
Marcus Washington could accelerate the process. The jewel of Clovis East’s freshman class, he gashed Clovis for 262 yards rushing and a touchdown.
“We’re doing good things here,” Morales said. “The culture is impressive.”
Yet the chase to catch Clovis promises to be difficult.
The Cougars have a sensational sophomore class, from which six players have started on the varsity. And that counts running back Samir Allen, who shifted, plowed and raced far beyond his years while rushing for 134 yards and three scores against the Timberwolves.
“I’m very satisfied where the program is at,” Hammond says. “We’ve got a lot of continuity from seventh through 12 grades, and that helps.”
Down year for TRAC? Really?
This has not been considered a particularly strong season for the TRAC.
That was partly evident in the fact its 5-0 champion, Clovis North, was given but a No. 4 seed in D-I behind Edison of the County/Metro Athletic Conference and Liberty-Bakersfield and defending champion Bakersfield of the Southwest Yosemite League.
But guess who accounts for half of the D-I’s quarterfinalists? Yup, the TRAC.
The league received a stunning boost when Buchanan, arriving at McLane Stadium with an 11 seed and a 2-8 record, conquered No. 6 Bullard 35-29. The Knights shared the CMAC title with Edison and Sanger. Then on to No. 7 Clovis West of the TRAC, which throttled No. 10 Frontier of the SWYL 30-10.
Kahlil Harshaw rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns and Jordan Martinez had two second-half interceptions for the Eagles.
Jordan Mendoza, who rushed for 99 yards, and Kordel Hoffman, who added 77 yards on the ground, had touchdown runs and Nick Marrone kicked a 34-yard field goal for the Eagles, who play at Liberty-Bakersfield in the quarters. Hoffman completed 11 of 16 passes for 139 yards.