Clovis High is 9-1, a Tri-River Athletic Conference co-champion and on solid footing to land the top seed for the Central Section Division I playoffs.
But not without drama.
The third-ranked Cougars, down 12-0, used a highlight-reel touchdown run by Josh Hokit, perfect kicking by Jacob Hinrichs, continued all-star type passing from Sean Kuenzinger and shutout defense for the final three quarters to escape with a 20-12 win over No. 9 Clovis West Friday night at Lamonica Stadium.
“We knew in August we had the work ethic, the drive, the talent and great coaching to have a championship team,” said senior linebacker Jared Hill, who led the defense with a wire-to-wire dominant performance.
Hinrichs kicked two field goals and two conversions, Kuenzinger passed for 163 yards – including a 19-yard touchdown to Tyson Fraser on fourth-and-9 late in the third quarter – and lineman A.J. Nevills, linebacker Tanner Rice, safety Hokit and cornerback J.J. Wills charged the defense for Clovis (9-1, 4-1).
The Cougars, who tied Buchanan for the TRAC title, will learn about 4 p.m. Saturday if they’re the No. 1 seed.
“I think we should be the 1,” said Clovis seven-year coach Rich Hammond, who delivered his third TRAC championship. “We’re 9-1 and we’ve played a bunch of D-I teams, and that’s a big deal.”
The Cougars’ primary competition will come from top-ranked Liberty-Bakersfield (7-3, 5-0), which closed a powerful run through the Southwest Yosemite League with a 44-21 rout of Bakersfield on Friday.
Seedings for the section’s six division will be announced from the Porterville office of Jim Crichlow.
Coaches rankings will be the starting point for Crichlow’s committee, followed by record and strength of schedule.
Clovis has the better record; Liberty has the better strength of schedule.
Clovis West (5-4, 2-3) jolted the Cougars by taking a 12-0 first-quarter lead behind sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez, who ran for a 32-yard score and completed a 10-yard touchdown to a diving Uriah Alers.
The turning point came soon after when the Golden Eagles jumped offsides with Clovis in punt formation on fourth-and-3.
Four plays later, Kuenzinger completed a 10-yard pass to Coltin Velasquez on fourth-and-6. And, three plays after that, Hokit broke went right, left, right, broke four tackles and carried a fifth defender into the end zone for a 7-yard score.
Hinrichs’ conversion kick cut the Clovis West lead to 12-7 early in the second.
Hinrichs then split the uprights on field goals of 23 and 27 yards, giving the Cougars a 13-12 lead at halftime.
Wills, an Idaho-bound wide receiver used in tight situations defensively, intercepted a pass and Andres Garcia recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter for Clovis.