MELROSE — Melrose got its biggest test of the 2009 season here Friday, but while the Clovis Christian Eagles came out on fire, the undefeated Buffaloes didn’t blink, winning 76-36 in the 8-man District 4 opener for both teams.
“Clovis Christian came out with a great game plan,” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “They forced us to do a lot of things we hadn’t done before. I was glad to see our kids step up to the challenge though.”
Clovis Christian (5-2) matched the Buffs score-for-score through much of the first half, tying the game early in the second quarter at 14-14 on a 63-yard Kevin Naceanceno to Mike Urioste pass.
Melrose (8-0) answered with a drive that started on its own 46 and ended with senior quarterback Clint Barnard taking the ball left on the option for a 5-yard touchdown.
Eagles junior Cory Shipman took the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the Melrose 5-yard-line, setting up a Urioste 5-yard touchdown run. The conversion failed and the Buffs led 22-20.
Barnard then scored on a 16-yard run with 5:28 left in the half to make it 28-20. After Melrose held Clovis Christian to a three-and-out, the Buffs quickly got another score, this time from senior running back Hayden Huber on a 10-yard run.
With 3:35 left in the half the Buffs had cracked the Eagles confidence.
Clovis Christian coach Jason Swann said the loss was bittersweet in that his team tagged Melrose for 36 points, more than any other Buffs opponent this year. At the same time, he said the Eagles strayed from their game plan of hurting Melrose on the ground and exploiting defensive weaknesses.
“We got away from it and started trying to do too much,” Swann said. “It was like we felt we had to score on every play. I was proud of our kids though, we had a good game plan.”
After Melrose milked the clock for another Barnard rushing touchdown with just four seconds left in the half, the Buffs led 44-20 at the break.
Both teams came out markedly flatter at the start of the third quarter and penalty flags and turnovers slowed the pace for a time.
Clovis Christian was the first to take advantage of a turnover when Urioste broke through the middle for a 72-yard score with 10:18 left in the period.
From there Barnard took control with two more rushing touchdowns and a 64-yard kickoff runback touchdown complemented by a Hayden Huber score from 16 yards out.
“It was a real different game for us,” Barnard said. “They did a good job of isolating our weaknesses on defense. We had to throw a lot more tonight.”
Barnard said while his team will keep the ball on the ground and grind out a win when they can, they have other weapons that can come in play. He said he’s glad the Buffs got to test some of those abilities at this point in the season.
“We definitely have the big play capability, we just haven’t had to use it,” Barnard said.
Clovis Christian is home against Floyd Friday while Melrose travels to Logan.