That top-seeded Clovis High failed to score on the opening possession after reaching the Edison 1-yard line is a nonissue.
Only because Josh Hokit made it that way.
“He made the world right for all of us,” Cougars coach Rich Hammond said after Hokit, on the Tigers’ second play, caused a fumble, scooped it and romped into the end zone – the indisputable play of the game in a Central Section quarterfinal won 28-6 by Clovis on Friday night at Lamonica Stadium.
Hokit, a running back/safety and arguably the best two-way player in the section, also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown as the Cougars (10-1) advanced to the semifinals for the fifth time in six years.
We’ve got Thanksgiving together once again, which is a wonderful thing. But we’ve got to finish it.
Clovis coach Rich Hammond
The problem: They haven’t advanced further.
“We’ve got Thanksgiving together once again, which is a wonderful thing,” Hammond said. “But we’ve got to finish it. We’ve got to make sure (we’re) coming back and practicing again on that Monday after Thanksgiving.”
Clovis will return to Lamonica Stadium next Friday and play No. 5 Clovis North (7-4), which defeated No. 4 Buchanan 45-28.
That reversed the Broncos’ 31-28 loss to Buchanan only three weeks earlier in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
And that came a week after Clovis North had lost 41-28 to Clovis.
“It’s hard to beat someone twice,” Hammond said. “Clovis North knocked off Buchanan, and I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘We’re going to knock off Clovis, too.’ ”
Clovis’ win over No. 8 Edison (5-7) came a year after the Tigers scored all of their points in the final seven minutes to stun the Cougars 21-14 in a semifinal at Sunnyside Stadium. Edison would then beat Liberty-Bakersfield by the same score for the D-I title.
This time, Clovis delivered repeated clutch plays to avoid a repeat in the presence of the stadium’s namesake, Daryle Lamonica. The Cougars graduate and former Oakland Raiders MVP quarterback was Clovis’ honorary captain, wearing a Cougars blue shirt and hat.
Leading 7-0 late in the second quarter, Clovis scored on a 23-yard pass from Sean Kuenzinger to JJ Wills on fourth-and-four.
2 touchdowns (one defense, one offense) for Josh Hokit in Clovis’ victory
28season TD passes for Cougars QB Sean Kuenzinger
Kuenzinger, a senior with 28 touchdown passes, has routinely struck deep this season on third- and fourth-down passes against defenses guarding against shorter passes.
Next to Hokit’s scoop-and-score, Clovis’ second biggest defensive play of the night saw lineman A.J. Nevills stuff Edison’s Leevel Tatum for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-two from the Tigers’ 45 on their first possession of the second half.
The Cougars, leading 14-6, would make it 21-6 nine plays later on a one-yard run by Nash Vidmar. Two plays earlier, Vidmar converted a third-and-12 with a 13-yard run up the middle.
Clovis then got insurance on Hokit’s seven-yard touchdown run for a 28-6 lead with 6:32 remaining. It came two plays after Tyson Fraser took a short pass on third-and-four, juked a defender and raced 15 yards.
At the end of the night, Hokit’s defensive play loomed largest. He stripped the ball from Edison running back Jaylen King on the early touchdown.
“He hit the hole hard. I stood him up, he was about to go down and I ripped the ball as hard as I could,” Hokit said. “The ball was rolling around and no one really knew, so I picked it up. It was a good play; I’m proud of myself.”
The 6-foot-1 1/2 , 205-pound Hokit has committed to Drexel – a private college in Philadelphia where he will join brother Isaiah – on a full-ride, five-year wrestling scholarship worth $260,000, he said.
He’s the ultimate competitor, the most competitive kid I’ve ever been around.
Hammond on Hokit, a star in football but headed to Drexel on a wrestling scholarship
Hokit placed second and fifth in the state tournament the past two years for state-winning Clovis teams.
Hammond said Hokit has attributes unlike any he’s seen.
“He’s the ultimate competitor, the most competitive kid I’ve ever been around,” Hammond said. “And he doesn’t care if he gets any individual glory; he deflects all credit. He just wants the team to play well.”