It’s a matter of function, and a matter of pride, that football players dress the same.
The Wildcats sidelines are no exception. Same purple uniforms. Same white letters with black outline. Same black pants, black shoes and purple helmets.
But there is one place players can be different. The eye black for several Wildcats is a source of encouragement, a reminder of principles or a way to honor friends and family.
The eye black, senior lineman Gerardo Rivera said, is actually a pair of stickers affixed under the eyes.
”Hey, it’s 2009,” he said with a laugh.
The players color in the stickers with a black permanent marker, like laying a coat of primer on a wall. Then a silver marker brings out the message.
Many go with Bible verses. Senior Matt Southard goes with Romans 8:31 (”If God is with us, who can be against us?”), while junior Michael Grooms picked Proverbs 14:23 Friday (“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty”).
Others abbreviate. Defensive back Edwin Lee’s “FNE JIMS” is “Fear no evil, Jesus is my savior.” Senior Pablo De La Rosa laughs when asked what his “FTP” stands for, and said, “The uncensored version is, ‘Forever, Together, Peace.’”
Senior quarterback Kyler-Brewer Hill picks an interlocking “TJF,” the initials of Tyler Jacob Fontenot, a friend and Clovis High student who died in a June 2008 drowning.
Rivera combined his eye black Friday. The left eye says, “Tio” and the right, “Sapo,” with “Psalm 41” (It begins, “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak, the Lord delivers him in times of trouble”) squeezed in.
“Tio Sapo” is the family nickname for Rivera’s uncle, Martin Rivera. His uncle, Gerardo Rivera said, has diabetes and went blind two weeks ago. The family hopes surgery will restore his vision.
In the meantime, Gerardo Rivera said he asked his uncle if he wanted to go to Friday’s homecoming game, a 31-14 win over Goddard.
“He told me he didn’t want to because he couldn’t see,” the younger Rivera said. “I said, ‘I’ll dedicate the game to you if you come.’”
His little sister, April Rivera, also decorates her cleats in Martin Rivera’s honor for junior varsity soccer games.
Best drive: With Clovis down a quarterback following a shoulder injury to senior Kyler Brewer-Hill, the Wildcats definitely needed a drive to milk the clock and add to the 21-7 lead.
Clovis got it, with an 11-play, 66-yard marathon drive. The Wildcats posted 10-straight runs on the drive, including a 14-yard run by Raymond Beachum on a fourth-down play, and ate 5:24 of clock.
The drive didn’t end with a touchdown, but Andrew North’s 27-yard field goal was enough to make it a three-possession lead with 5:49 to play.
Brewer-Hill’s status was uncertain over the weekend, and he said post-game it felt worse than a “stinger” injury.
Worst drive: Clovis’ drive midway through the second quarter found the Wildcats unable to get into any rhythm. A pair of holding penalties inside their own 20 negated three Wildcats runs, and a long third-down pass by Brewer-Hill fell incomplete.
Best defensive series: Trailing 21-7, the Rockets needed to get some momentum in the final minutes of the third. But Clovis wouldn’t allow it, despite letting Goddard into their territory.
After Goddard reached the Clovis 46, the Wildcats got sack-happy on quarterback David Vega. Senior Emery Sierra pulled Vega down for a 7-yard loss on second down, and senior Richie Chavez came in unblocked on the rightfor a 10-yard loss on third down. Vega never saw Chavez, as he was trying to avoid end Matt Southard, who also came in unblocked on a blitz.
Worst defensive series: Clovis allowed a pair of Goddard touchdowns on defense. But it’s almost nitpicking to harp on the second one, scored with one second left after the Wildcats went up 24 points.
So the winner (loser?) is Goddard’s first touchdown drive, a three-play, 53-yard burst that could have changed the complexion of the contest. Vega hit Ryan French for a 28-yard gain and found Jake Seeley for a 27-yard reception to cut the Clovis lead to 14-7 with :40 to play in the first half. The touchdown also gave the struggling Rockets a chance to tie, as they won the toss and elected to take the ball to start the second half.
Next: The Eldorado Eagles visit Leon Williams Stadium on Friday. Eldorado handed Clovis its only defeats of 2008, including a 10-7 semifinal game loss last year at Albuquerque’s Wilson Stadium.
Rivera said the game is huge, and every snap in practice is going to matter.
“It’s a big game,” Kelley said. “They beat us twice by (a combined) four points last year. We’ve got to take steps week after week after week and get better each week. We’ve had two small steps since (the 49-0 loss to) La Cueva.”