No lightning. No 11-on-13 mismatch.
They returned to conventional football Friday night at Lamonica Stadium and fourth-ranked Clovis High throttled No. 6 Buchanan 34-13 to set up a possible showdown for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title with Clovis North next week.
It was an overwhelming answer for the Cougars (7-1, 2-1), coming off a loss as bizarre as it was painful – 21-20 to Central at the same site last week in a game that began on a Thursday, ended on a Saturday because of lightning delay and had Clovis face 13 Grizzlies players on five plays and 12 on another in a potential winning drive that resulted in a missed field goal in the final minutes.
Nothing silly this time at Lamonica.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It was a Clovis mauling – pure and simple. And that has become customary against the Bears as the Cougars have won five straight in the series with an average victory margin of 24.6 points.
Honestly, by Saturday afternoon we decided it’s in the past, let’s move on and get this one.
Clovis QB Sean Kuenzinger on the Cougars’ bounceback attitude after tough loss to Central
Only this Buchanan team arrived 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the TRAC, and never had the Bears even remotely brought those credentials into the previous four games.
But, clearly, they found a Clovis unit with an edge.
“If what happened last week couldn’t get the fire in your belly burning and get you to play your best football moving forward, what could?” said coach Rich Hammond, whose Cougars (7-1, 2-1) will oppose No. 5 and defending TRAC champion Clovis North (5-2, 3-0) next Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Broncos used a Jayson Lee 2-yard touchdown run in the final 2 minutes to escape, 23-20, at Central (2-6, 1-2).
176 first-half rushing yards for Clovis
269-131 total offense advantage through two quarters
There was no such drama at Lamonica Stadium as Clovis – a week after Sean Kuenzinger passed for a school-record 425 yards, according to section historian Bob Barnett – grounded the Bears into submission.
Receiving two scoring runs from Josh Hokit and one each from Christian Copeland and Nash Vidmar, the Cougars rushed for 176 yards in the first half, mounted a 269-131 advantage in total yards, bolted to a 27-7 lead and coasted.
“That’s how you win championships in November,” Hammond said. “I was really proud of how physical our guys played, and against a very physical team in Buchanan.”
All along, Hammond has said he would be selective with the offensive workload of Hokit – a standout safety – with the idea of preserving his legs as much as possible for the stretch run.
And that run began Friday night, when the state-class wrestler carried 13 times for 93 yards.
“This was a do-or-die game for us,” Hammond said. “To win the TRAC, we had to win. I mean, hey, you’ve got to bring everything when you’re in that situation, right? And I thought Josh set the tone early with his physical style of runs.”
I’ve got to commend him because a lot of sophomores would have been trembling in their boots. He was outstanding.
Cougars coach Rich Hammond on JV call-up Colton Byrd
Clovis overpowered the Bears up front behind tackles Seth Nevills and Shayne Valdez, guards Bubba Hernandez and Tyler Collier, center Eric Delk and tight ends A.J. Nevills and Colton Byrd, a sophomore just elevated from junior varsity.
“We ran behind Colton a bundle,” Hammond said. “I’ve got to commend him because a lot of sophomores would have been trembling in their boots. He was outstanding.”
Kuenzinger, who entered the game as one of the state’s most efficient passers with 1,848 yards, a 59 percent completion rate, 20 TDs and two interceptions, completed 16 of 25 attempts for 160 yards against Buchanan.
What little chances the Bears had of rallying were torpedoed late in the third quarter and again in the fourth when Kuenzinger converted first-down passes to J.J. Wills on third-and-12 and fourth-and-11.
Wills, son of former Hanford and UCLA running back great Shawn Wills, finished with six receptions for 62 yards.
“Last week I throw for 425, this week I didn’t have to,” Kuenzinger said. “We got the win, that’s all that matters.”
He said the team had no problem avoiding post-Central depression: “Honestly, by Saturday afternoon we decided it’s in the past, let’s move on and get this one.”
Hokit, end A.J. Nevills and linebacker Jared Hills led arguably Clovis’ best defensive effort of the season.
Chibuikem Dunu carried 19 times for 99 yards and a score for Buchanan.
The Bears played without defensive end Ben Parker, a major college recruit, in the second half because of an undisclosed injury.