When the fourth quarter started with a high snap, and a Clovis Wildcat touchdown 19 yards later, it seemed like the ending for a forgettable Friday night for the Rio Rancho Rams.
But nearly 12 minutes, 121 yards of Ram offense and no Clovis first downs later, it was the Wildcats who were trying to forget matters, having barely shut the door on a 21-18 victory.
Clovis (4-1) won its third straight, but had to hold off a Rio Rancho squad that rolled out 316 yards and fell short when Wildcat junior Emery Sierra fell on an onside kick attempt with 10 seconds to play.
“We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to get smarter,” Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said after the Wildcats were limited to 11 first downs and 146 yards — 6 in the 4th.
“We quit being aggressive and quit going after our blocks.”
The Rams (2-2) seemed dead in the water shortly into the fourth quarter, as the opening play started with a snap over the head of 6-foot-3 quarterback Cohen Mangin.
The junior ran to cover up for a safety, but defensive end Roderick Taylor knocked Mangin out of the play to keep the ball loose for cornerback Denzel Pleasant in the end zone, leading to a 21-3 advantage.
“Cohen generally was about 1 yard closer to the line than (starter) Tyler (Baker) was,” Rio Rancho coach Mike Worley said.” You’ve got to give Clovis a lot of credit. They put a lot of pressure on us up front that we have not experienced in the first three games.
“That can plant a seed in the kids’ (minds) and they think they’ve got to jump the gun.”
Clovis — which had scored on a first-quarter run by Stefan Mills and a 3-yard scoring reception by Josh Bryan with 10 seconds left in the first half — seemed destined to run out the clock after Pleasant’s score. But back-to-back-to-back three-and-outs gave Mangin and the Rams the opportunities they needed.
“In a game like that, you have to be able to take care of some little things, and have a few breaks go your way,” Kelley said. “We didn’t have a lot of breaks in the second half, but we didn’t create a lot of breaks.
“We hung ourselves out to dry a lot in the second half.”
The breaks came throughout the first three quarters. After Rio Rancho rolled to first-and-goal at the Clovis 10 late in the second, the Wildcat defense held and the Rams only got a 27-yard field goal from Brandon Van Bastian.
Mills then found a seam on the ensuing pooch kick with 1:18 to go, and Clovis needed six plays for Josh Potocki to get Bryan the ball on a 3-yard fade route.
“I just told Josh to put it up there because I was going to beat my guy,” Bryan said. “Josh threw the perfect pass.”
Regarding his quarterbacks, Worley thought Mangin did a good job after taking over in the second half, completing 11-of-21 passes for 138 yards with just a tipped interception by Sierra against him.
But Worley said the halftime switch “gave Tyler a chance to see some things from the sidelines he normally doesn’t see” and he’s not sure who will start next week’s home matchup against Manzano.
Clovis faces Goddard Friday at the Wool Bowl. The Rockets, No. 1 in Class 4A, routed Portales 64-19 at Greyhound Stadium.