Judge Chavez had a lot of reasons for hope this season based on his 20-5 mark in his first two seasons at Cibola.
As the Cougars have struggled to a 2-4 mark this season, he’s got a weekly reason for solace — his vote in the New Mexico High School Association football poll.
“I was turning in our top 10 (vote),” Chavez said, “and basically it was our schedule.”
This week’s poll places the Cougars as underdogs again, as No. 10 Cibola hosts No. 4 Clovis tonight at Milne Stadium.
Clovis (5-1) knows Cibola is no pushover despite its record. The Cougars’ losses are to Sandia, Mayfield, La Cueva and Eldorado. Those teams are a combined 17-3.
“They’ve played a lot of teams that haven’t been beaten all year,” Clovis senior running back Scott McMath said. “We have to be ready to face them.”
For that, McMath said, it comes down to the fundamentals the Wildcats have practiced all season — power running, ball control and a punishing defense.
Well, maybe they’ve been doing it longer than just this season.
“We broke out some film (of Clovis from) five or six years ago, and it’s like watching them this year,” said Chavez, who spent 17 seasons at Highland before joining the Cougars. “They’ve won so many games by doing the same thing and doing it really well.”
The transition hasn’t been as simple for Cibola.
“Defensively, we’re a little inexperienced. We’re starting 10 kids who had never played varsity,” Chavez said. “I thought we would overcome that and I thought our offense would be able to score enough to let our defense get away with giving up a few more points.”
It’s simple for Cibola. When they control the ball, they’ve got a good chance to win. The Cougars lost 42-20 to Mayfield, but went into halftime tied at 14 due to long drives.
“They’re going to line up and try to run over us,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said. “They’re a team that could go on a 10-play drive without much problem because they are so big and strong.”
Kelley said the Cougars run most of their wing-T offense behind 6-foot-6, 310-pound right tackle Rio Marez.
Like most opponents, the Cougars easily outsize the Wildcats, and Clovis hopes to make up for it with a slight speed advantage. Kelley said there’s less margin of error than usual because the Cougars are well-rounded.
Chavez feels his team would be a little more well-rounded if it was healthy. He said the squad is banged up, but it just needs to survive the midseason stretch. Their three District 1-5A opponents are a combined 5-9.
“We feel playing these teams is going to help us down the line,” Chavez said. “If we can get through this month and get through district, when we get to the playoffs we’re going to be fine.”
Clovis has similar goals, as October’s no cakewalk. There was Goddard, No. 1 in Class 4A, last week. After Cibola, it’s a home battle against Artesia for the Wildcats and the District 4-5A opener at Carlsbad.
“Playing on the road back-to-back, that’s a tough two weeks, then you throw in Artesia and you start district,” Kelley said. “You obviously want to win them all, but our ultimate goal is to win district.”
Clovis (5-1) at Cibola (2-4)
7 p.m. today, Milne Stadium, Albuquerque
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 31st season, 285-99-5. Cibola, Judge Chavez, 3rd season, 22-9.
Last week: Clovis handed Class 4A Goddard its first loss, 35-14; Cibola suffered a 38-13 loss to La Cueva.
Last meeting: 2007, Clovis 13, Cibola 12.
Cibola players to watch: RT Rio Marez (6-6, 310), FB David Vargas (5-10, 180), WR Adam Keith (6-2, 170).
On the radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
What 2 watch 4: Possession time. Chavez said a 42-20 loss to Mayfield was 14-14 at the half, largely because the Cougars went on a pair of scoring drives with 10-plus plays. Clovis make the stops on third and long, and Cibola’s in for a long night.
Quick hits: Senior RB Stefan Mills, has an outside chance of reaching the 1,000-yard all-purpose yards tonight. He leads the Wildcats with 669 rushing yards and 94 receiving yards, and is tied for second with 39 yards returning kicks; Junior Emery Sierra leads that department with only his 85-yard scoring return in the season opener. Senior DE Morris Sharp, who had one of the Wildcats’ seven sacks against Goddard, leads the team at 3.5. Mike Roberts, who was the voice of Lobo football for 42 years, is calling the game on 101.7 FM (KQTM, The Team). The broadcast will be streamed on www.1017theteam.com.
Go figure: Backup QB Kyler Brewer’s quarterback rating is 521.2, according to team statistics. He has completed both of his pass attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown.