Clovis senior wide receiver Bryce Hill picks up seven yards on an end around in the first quarter.
After fumbling away its first chance to take control of the game near the goal line, La Cueva wasn’t about to waste another gift three minutes later.
After a short punt set up La Cueva at the Clovis 20-yard line for a second-straight time, senior quarterback Harry Oms scampered 14 yards for a score late in the fourth quarter to give Bears a double-digit cushion en route to a 26-21 win Saturday over Clovis at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.
Clovis (2-2) took a two-game winning streak into the game but came out flat.
La Cueva (2-2) controlled the ball and field position with a punishing ground game. The Bears also held Wildcats’ leading rusher Manuel Robles to a season-low 68 yards and rarely gave quarterback Jordan Mendoza time to throw the ball.
A turnover the Bears turned into a quick score late in the first half also contributed to a Clovis loss that wasn’t as close as the stats and the scoreboard showed.
Jaden Isler’s 68-yard punt return in the first quarter and Mendoza’s 5-yard pass early in the second half allowed the Wildcats to stay close.
Impact: The Wildcats were roughed up on the road for the second time this season.
Turning point: After Clovis put together its only sustained drive of the game to tie the score at 14, La Cueva responded with a long drive of its own to take the lead for good. Workhorse Gus Bowe (115 yards on 18 carries) kept the drive alive with a three-yard run on third-and-two before Oms and freshman Ronnie Daniels hooked up for a 22-yard gain over the middle. Daniels scored standing up four plays later on a sweep to the right with a little less than three minutes left in the third quarter.
Stat of day: Outside of its two scoring drives, Clovis gained 65 yards on its other eight possessions.
Short field: La Cueva won the field position battle with the help of a turnover and a pair of short Clovis punts. La Cueva’s average starting position was its 45. Three drives started inside the Clovis 25. The Wildcats average starting position was its 23. Clovis’ best starting position was its 35 to start the second half.
Two-minute drill: Mendoza marched Clovis 69 yards in six plays after La Cueva went up 26-14 with 1:19 left in the game. The drive included a 15-yard pass to Chase Willis, an eight-yarder to Lane Strebeck and a 15-yard pass interference penalty before Mendoza hit McMath streaking down the left sideline for a 33-yard score.
Special: Isler’s punt return touchdown was his first. After taking a handoff from McMath, who fielded the punt, Isler started up the left sideline, cut across the field at the La Cueva 40, and outraced several Bears to the end zone. Isler also blocked an extra-point kick.
Not so special: The Wildcats’ special teams struggled in the second half. Among the problems were a fumbled punt — which Clovis recovered — a bad snap that resulted in a punt for negative yardage, and a shanked punt that set up what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
Best offensive series: Clovis took the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14. Bryce Hill caught a pass for seven yards and added a 14-yard run on an end around. Robles ripped off runs of 11, 13 and eight yards to move the ball to the 3. A play later, Mendoza hit Strebeck for a 5-yard score on a play-action pass.
Worst offensive series: After recovering a fumble near its goal line with a little under five minutes left in the game, Clovis picked up a first down courtesy of a La Cueva personal foul for a late hit. A fasemask penalty and a Mendoza sack left the Wildcats facing third-and-23 at its 4. Mendoza was nearly sacked again for a safety, but managed to complete a pass to Robles for no gain.
Best defensive series: Clovis forced its only three-and-out series early in the fourth quarter. After Daniels was thrown for a two-yard loss, Bowe picked up eight yards on two carries and La Cueva punted for the only time in the second half.
Worst defensive series: La Cueva marched 67 yards in 11 plays — all runs — in the second quarter to tie the game at 7. Bowe kept the driving going, picking up eight yards on third-and-one at the Clovis 43. Justin Dugger carried the ball three straight times over left tackle to advance the ball to the 7, and Brandon Hamlot scored from the 1 two players later.
Go figure: Clovis averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
Up next: The Wildcats travel to Rio Rancho on Friday. The Rams roughed up two-time Class 3A champion Las Vegas Robertson 56-21.