On a clear November night in 2008, a sophomore named Juan Rivas took one handoff against Hobbs. A few jukes and 42 yards later, he was in the end zone and Clovis High coaches could feel confident about their future backfield.
On a hot August 2009 night in Alamogordo, when Rivas was injured on his first carry of the regular season, a junior backup named Quran Wiggins stepped in with 187 yards rushing and three touchdowns ... and the Wildcats could stay confident.
And later on in the 2009 season, when there were concerns about depth, a sophomore named Raymond Beachum ran for both of Clovis’ touchdowns in a 14-7 win over Highland.
All three return for this season’s Wildcat backfield. They’re bigger, faster, smarter — and one more thing.
“I’m hungry,” Rivas said. “I’m pretty sure we’re all hungry.”
Clovis has traditionally been a power-running team, but assistant coach Darren Kelley said it’s not every season the Wildcats have depth like this in the backfield. Though only Wiggins broke the 1,000-yard barrier last year with 1,501 yards, all three have shown they’re capable of doing it.
“All of them have gotten a little smarter and a little faster,” Kelley said. “They’re as good as anybody else in the state.”
Now, the mission is to wipe last season off the slate. The Wildcats went 9-3, but suffered two of their worst defeats in school history. La Cueva and Mayfield, last year’s participants in the 5A title game, beat Clovis 49-0 and 38-0, respectively.
They’ll erase the memories one yard at a time, and each back brings something to the table.
For Wiggins, he feels it’s time for him to be a leader. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wiggins was just asked to fill in at first when Rivas suffered a shoulder injury at Alamogordo last year. Now, the man they call “Kutti” is expected to take the starring role.
“Quran, he’s the king of the backfield,” Rivas said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get him (in a position) to use that breakaway speed.”
Wiggins had four scores of more than 50 yards last season, including a pair of 70-yard runs.
Kelley said the 5-11, 175-pound Rivas is probably the best of the three in the passing game, as he’ll often be a target underneath for senior quarterback Jordan Hill — another Wildcat with good running ability, Kelley added.
“Juan, he brings the explosive, flashy kind of play. He’ll do whatever it takes to get it done.”
As the lone junior in the group, Beachum knows the seniors get the priority. A few times, he was pulled out of games late last year not because he’d done anything wrong, but because veteran coach Eric Roanhaus wanted to provide ample playing time for upperclassmen.
Wiggins knows it’s harder to keep Beachum off the field, now that he’s an upperclassman as well.
“Beachum, he lights the fire under all the running backs,” Wiggins said. “If we don’t do well, we know he can come in and take our spots. He’s a hard worker.”
Beachum knows he’ll get his carries, but he understands if he’s put in a lesser role with two other seniors at running back.
“I’ve got some speed, a little bit of strength,” said the 5-11, 165-pound Beachum, who rushed for 464 yards and three touchdowns last season. “I’ll do whatever it takes to win a championship.”