In life, people get opportunities to step up and rise to the occasion. Sometimes they succeed and take advantage of it, but other times they fall short and fail. This was not the case last Friday night for the Clovis High Cougars.
The Cougars took on the Stockdale High Mustangs in Lamonica stadium on Clovis High’s homecoming night: and it was a game to remember.
The Mustangs came out ready to play early in the first half stuffing the Cougars offense and scoring on their opening drive of the game relies a lot on senior quarterback Jalen Smith’s arm and athletic abilities to avoid defenders and escape the pocket to take shots down the field.
The Cougars defense looked shocked and unprepared at first sight of the Mustangs quick strike to put points on the board. The Cougars secondary did not have senior free safety Mason Fraser, who exited the Bullard game with a neck strain, which led to the Mustangs confidence to throw down the field. (Fraser did, however, win homecoming king along with senior Chloe Franz who was named homecoming queen).
The Cougars offense struggled early as well, as they were led by junior quarterback Jason Hunt, who took over for senior quarterback Payton Mayer who went out early against Bullard with an injury as well.
Hunt threw two touchdown passes against Bullard the prior week, but unfortunately, that was not the case this past Friday.
Hunt struggled with his arm going 2-4 in the first half with an interception to wrap up the second quarter. Although, Hunt was able to break down the Mustangs defense with his legs to pick up big gains for his offense.
Senior running back Cole Roberts came out the gates strong picking up the Cougars only touchdown in the first half with a 70-yard run.
Unfortunately, Roberts and Hunt’s night were cut short due to injuries in the third quarter. To replace them, the Cougars looked to their third stringers: junior quarterback Jake Sanders and senior running back Jake Bertoldi.
These two came up big.
Bertoldi stepped up for Roberts running the ball aggressively and hitting the hole hard. Although he didn’t have a crazy amount of large runs and big pickups, his running style was able to keep drives alive as he plunged forward for first downs.
For Sanders, he stepped up when he needed to. Sanders went these four weeks not getting too many reps throughout practice; but when he stepped on the field, he was able to keep control of his team and execute each play.
Late in the game, Sanders hit junior receiver Matthew Sanchez down the middle, who jumped up to catch the ball around a defender to set up a touchdown to senior receiver Michael Machado down the left sideline.
That then left the Mustangs with a little under two minutes to punch in a touchdown since they were down 17-14: and the Mustangs walked down easily.
With a 15 yard catch and throw, with additional 15 yards due to a face mask penalty, the Mustangs found themselves on the Cougars 30 yard line.
The Cougars defense stuffed the Mustangs twice forcing them to a third down.
On third down, the Mustangs took a shot at the end zone, catching the defense out of position and leaving a man wide-open in the end zone. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, Smith overthrew his player leading to a fourth down.
Instead of kicking a field goal to force overtime, the Mustangs decided to take one last chance at the end zone again. They ran the same play, finding the same man open. This time Smith underthrew his receiver giving time for senior linebacker Jack Wiggins to catch up to the ball and deflect it, knocking it into senior cornerback Nick Delgado’s hands to end the game.
The game did not go the way the Cougars, or the Mustangs hoped, but it was exciting and gut-wrenching for both crowds to watch.
Players stepped up from both sides of the ball for each team; players people wouldn’t expect to play like they did: but played exceptionally.
Again, it was an exciting and bizarre game. Fans can prepare for more as the Cougars head to Centennial to take on the Golden Eagles, and the Mustangs head home to take on Clovis West this upcoming Friday.