Leon Williams Stadium will be ready for tonight’s game, Clovis High officials said, because there’s no other choice.
Starting tonight, Clovis senior Lane Ward is a leader on the Wildcat defense, because he has no other choice.
“Coming up from the sophomore team to playing on the varsity was a big challenge (last year),” Ward said, “But you’ve got to step up.”
Entering his senior season, and second year as linebacker, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ward leads a Wildcat defense into a 7 p.m. season opener against Alamogordo.
The artificial surface at Leon Williams Stadium will be ready before the game, Clovis Athletic Director Brian Stacy said Thursday night. But Stacy didn’t get more specific than that.
“We’re going to play here,” said Stacy, who said rubber inlay was being put on the field late Thursday night. He had made backup reservations at Greyhound Stadium, but said the deadline had already passed to make the necessary preparations.
The surface won’t be the only thing untested today. The Class 5A runnerup Wildcats and Tigers each return only four starters.
“We’re just young,” said Tommy Standefer, a former Clovis lineman and Eastern New Mexico University coach entering his second season leading the Tigers. “We’re not bad, we’re just young.”
With quarterback Tony Anderson and 1,000-yard rusher Bobby Wride returning, the Tigers were already formidable. Add in receivers Tyler Worley and Torey Pinson, and Alamogordo hopes its spread offense can give the Wildcats fits.
“The big concern is they’ve got a great running back, and they’ve got a great quarterback,” Kelley said. “Those four guys are athletic enough, you’re going to have to (finish tackles).”
Ward said the spread offense might mean fewer tackle opportunities come his way, but he’s always got to be ready to be the defense’s anchor.
“At linebacker, you make the most plays; you get the most contact,” Ward said. “Being a linebacker, you’ve got to be a leader and know all the positions.”
Clovis’ offense will run around senior quarterback Josh Potocki and senior running back Stefan Mills — filling in huge offensive holes left, respectively, by Jordan Mendoza and Manuel Robles.
“Hopefully Josh can take care of the ball and move it up the field,” Kelley said, “and hopefully Stefan’s going to be able to step into that role.”
Standefer is pretty sure Eric Roanhaus, his high school coach, will have the Wildcats ready despite heavy graduation losses.
“Their greatest strength is their overall program,” Standefer said. “Even though they lose seniors, they’re able to plug in kids who know what they’re doing.”
Alamogordo at Clovis.
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Leon Williams Stadium.
Coaches: Alamogordo, Tommy Standefer, second season, 6-5; Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 31st season, 276-95-5
Players to watch: Alamogordo, QB Tony Anderson, RB Bobby Wride, WR Torey Pinson, LB Sean Powe; Clovis, QB Josh Potocki, RB Stefan Mills, FS Arthur Calbert, LB Lane Ward.
Quotable: “I don’t feel like we’re big enough to run between the tackles on anybody, so we’re going to have to spread it out.” — Standefer on his team, which boasts 260-pound senior James Seiler as its biggest lineman.
“We had a good practice on Wednesday. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be physical.” — Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley.