The Clovis Wildcats are looking to be a team that makes big plays. At full strength, the Rio Rancho Rams are that team.
Both teams are looking to climb out of 1-3 holes when they face off tonight at Leon Williams Stadium.
The Rams, shorthanded with eight player suspensions during an 0-3 start, scored a 35-14 victory over Onate in their first game with all of their weapons. In their first three games, the Rams were outscored 104-11.
The Wildcats have battled injuries, and have had trouble responding to other teams’ big plays during a three-game skid since their season-opening 40-0 win over Alamogordo.
Clovis has been outscored 103-38 since then, most recently a 28-17 loss at Rio Rancho Cleveland.
“We didn’t do a bad job (at Cleveland),” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said. “We’ve got to be able to make pays. We were where we needed to be, but we just didn’t make a play on offense or defense.”
Juan Rivas went out early two weeks ago after losing the tip of a finger on a tackle against La Cueva. The 5-foot-8 senior cornerback and running back wasn’t aware of the severity of the injury until he held his hand up to his face.
“ It felt like a jammed finger,” Rivas said. “When it’s jammed, you don’t feel the rest of it.”
The rest of it is now gone. His left ring finger is now about an inch shorter, with the top knuckle missing. Rivas said he should be able to play without the tip, and he’s already getting used to going the rest of his life without it.
“It’s not going to grow back, it’s gone,” said Rivas, who is, fortunately, right-handed.
Rivas and Kelley said the key to Friday is how they defend Rams quarterback Tim Foley. The senior, who had a goal-line interception to seal the Rams’ 21-17 victory over the Wildcats last season, has moved into the quarterback role left open by the graduation of Tyler Baker.
Foley, Kelley said, isn’t the same type of aerial threat as Baker, but he throws and runs well enough that Clovis has to focus on him.
“They find ways to get the ball into his hands,” Kelley said.
In addition to Foley, the Rams have other running options, and make a team pay for over-pursuit with a series of counters and misdirection rushes.
“We need to start stopping the run,” Rivas said. “We’ve been playing the pass the last few games, and teams have just been running up the gut on us.”
Defensively, the Rams aren’t much different than the last few years, Kelley said. The linebacker trio of Calvin Larson, Jackie Satriana and Paul Jaramillo is athletic, and makes the Rams dangerous in stunt-heavy defense.
“They’re feast or famine,” Kelley said. “If you stay on point, you can make a big play.”
Attempts to contact Rio Rancho coach David Howes were unsuccessful.
Rio Rancho (1-3) at Clovis (1-3)
Radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
TV: KFCL, UHF channel 41, Suddenlink channel 128 (98-128) or Comcast channel 98. 6 p.m. Saturday airing.
Coaches: Rio Rancho, David Howes, second season, 8-7. Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 33rd season, 300-106-5.
Last week: The Wildcats lost at Rio Rancho Cleveland 28-17 last Friday, their third-straight setback. The Rams ended their own three-game skid last week with their first win of the season, 35-14 over Onate.
Last meeting: 2009, Rio Rancho 21-17.
Rams players to watch: Jr. LB Calvin Larson, 5-10, 176; Sr. QB Tim Foley, 5-9, 170; Sr. LB Jackie Satriana, 5-10, 215.
— Compiled by Kevin Wilson