RIO RANCHO — There was no peace in the passing pocket Friday night.
Cleveland and Clovis combined for nine sacks in the Storm’s come-from-behind 28-17 win over the Wildcats.
While the Wildcats sacked Cleveland’s Cole Gautsche and Travis Lonergan five times —- led by junior Kenny Betts with 2 1/2 — a Storm pass rush led by brutish 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior defensive tackle Abram Holland not only sacked Clovis senior quarterback Jordan Hill four times but rarely allowed him time to even set his feet.
Cleveland’s QB tandem finished 6-of-13 for 104 yards, while Hill was 3-of-18 for 36 yards.
“We really did it with four guys,” Cleveland coach Kirk Potter said. “(Holland) is a special pass rusher. He was able to flush the quarterback out of the pocket, and Reese White was there on the outside.”
The teams found it a little easier to move the ball on the ground as Cleveland’s Adam Grau (106 yards) and Guatsche (102) and Clovis’ Quran Wiggins (160) and Ray Beachum (106) all broke the century mark.
Counter-productive: The Storm had success with a wingback counterplay that featured Grau most of the time. Cleveland ran the counter five times for 90 yards, including Grau's 21-yard scamper in the second quarter that put the Storm up 14-3.
“We knew what was coming,” Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “We even drew it up for them and went over it. We just didn’t execute.”
Familiar foe: Former Clovis assistant coach and Eastern New Mexico University quarterback Heath Ridenhour is in his first year as the Storm’s offensive coordinator.
“Coach (Eric) Roanhaus gave me my first chance to coach and I’ll alway be grateful for that,” Ridenour said. “And some of those guys (Clovis’ coaching staff) are my best friends in the world. But even if you play against friends, the goal is to win.”
He said since he had been with the Clovis staff for five years, he might have had a little tactical advantage since he knew what the Wildcats like to do.
“But the bottom line is, you have to do what you do best,” Ridenour said. “And that’s what we did.”
That’s weak: Both of Clovis’ long touchdown runs in the third quarter came on runs to the weak side.
Junior Ray Beachum scored on a counter play, cutting off of a kickout block by senior guard Derrick Lekovich. Storm defensive back Steven Steele tried to nudge Beachum out of bounds about the 10-yard line, but Beachum managed to tightrope his way to the end zone for the Wildcats’ first score.
On the Wildcats’ next possession — after Hill was sacked for a 23-yard loss — Wiggins motored around a vacant right side of the Storm defense and down the sideline to put Clovis up 17-14 four minutes into the second half.
“We did a good job of attacking the weak side,” Kelley said. “We couldn't stick to the game plan because we fell behind, especially after the blocked punt.”
Backwards ending: Clovis’ final three drives ended with a blocked punt on fourth-and 28, a punt on fourth-and-38 and a fake punt on fourth-and-10 that lost seven yards.
Up next: Clovis returns home on Friday to take on Rio Rancho High in the Wildcats’ homecoming game.