Pigskin preview: Huge improvement needed on defense

By Kevin Wilson

Clovis Media Inc

kwilson@cnjonline.com

It’s a new August in Clovis, and another opportunity to line the football trophy case. The helmets have few scratches, but they don’t have the Clovis “C” logo either. Both still have to be earned on the field.

There’s a good degree of confidence in the locker room a short stroll from the field at Leon Williams Stadium, but it’s certainly guarded optimism.

The season starts for the Clovis Wildcats with many nods to last season’s conclusion — when the Wildcats’ dreams ended on The Field of Dreams in Las Cruces with a 70-40 loss to the eventual champion Bulldawgs.

The run-heavy Wildcats proved they could throw with a healthy Dakotah Yandell behind center, and they have enough offense to be competitive with Class 4A and 5A teams. But it’s not enough to score, as last season proved.

Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus, entering his 36th season behind the helm, noted the team averaged a school-record 39.8 points per game. But he quickly used that to make a point: The 2001 team that previously held the record went 13-0 and last year’s Wildcats went 6-6.

That means two things — the proliferation of the spread offense means teams need to score more to compete, and Clovis needs to be better defensively.

“You like to think your defense is a little ahead earlier in the year,” Roanhaus said. “Just like anything else, we’ve got to be able to stop the run first. I’d like to think we won’t be a defense that gives up 70 points.”

Senior Kordell Tindle can attest. Playing as the backup quarterback last year, and seeing heavy action with Yandell injured early, Tindle slides over to the linebacker position, where defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said he and Matt Lanier have progressed very well.

Tindle had neither the scrambling ability nor the experience running the offense Yandell did, one of many reasons the squad started 2-5 last season. Other reasons included a lack of weapons behind star running back Kamal Cass and a porous secondary.

The secondary problems appear to be behind the Wildcats, Roanhaus hopes, especially since nine of the 10 Wildcat opponents (not Goddard) will employ some amount of spread offense. There is enough talent in the secondary, Roanhaus said, that Traivon Sopila will be allowed to focus on receiver duties after starting on the secondary in his junior season.

The key on offense, Roanhaus said, is keeping Yandell healthy, though junior Jordan Holguin will be the insurance policy at quarterback. The line is somewhat young, and losing big tight ends Dijon Ford and Marshall Winn to graduation won’t help. But Sopila, Peyton Lott, Steven Beckham and Juan San Juan have all shown big-play capability to help Cass and Yandell.

“I don’t think we’re going to be as limited this year,” Roanhaus said. “We’re going to be able to do some of the same things as we did when we had Jordan Hill (at quarterback). We were a smashmouth team last year. We’re going to have to be a finesse team this year.”

Tindle performed well at times at quarterback — including a game-winning touchdown pass against Sandia with Yandell knocked out of a game late that ended a five-game skid. But he hopes he can be more of an asset on the defensive side.

“I’ve played linebacker my whole life,” Tindle said. “Coach (Darrell) Davis has really helped us get up to speed. Me and Matt (Lanier) are going to tear things up. We have to have a better defense than we did last year.”

 

ROSTER

No. Name Yr. Ht. Wt. Pos.

8 Travon Sopila Sr. 6-2 175 WR/S

10 Dakota Yandell Sr. 6-0 197 QB

14 Antonio Hicks Jr. 5-7 155 QB/CB

15 Alfonso Rivas Jr. 5-9 165 SS/QB

16 Christian Caldwell Jr. 5-11 160 WR/FS

17 Jordan Holguin Jr. 5-11 160 FS/QB

19 Kordell Tindle Sr. 5-11 195 LB/QB

20 Kamal Cass Sr. 5-9 163 RB

21 Kaine Bender Jr. 6-0 160 WR/FS

23 Peyton Lott Sr. 5-11 160 CB/RB

24 Steven Beckham Sr. 5-8 160 RB/CB

26 Juan San Juan Jr. 5-9 160 RB/CB

30 David Vela Jr. 5-8 170 FB/LB

32 Matt Lanier Jr. 6-1 180 LB/TE

33 Jaquan Franklin Jr. 6-0 175 LB/RB

40 Adam Wagener Sr. 5-10 160 K/P

42 Dylan Smith Jr. 6-1 196 LB/FB

44 Nathanael Solis Sr. 6-0 178 TE/DE

48 Alfredo Lopez Sr. 5-10 153 DE/TE

52 Ago Jiminez Jr. 6-1 220 C/DT

55 Brian McCormick Jr. 6-0 190 C/DT

57 Markus Aragon Sr. 6-0 191 T/DT

58 Carlitos Sierra Sr. 5-9 222 G/DT

62 Derrick Brown Jr. 6-0 217 G/LB

65 Bryan Abernathy Sr. 5-10 160 LB/FB

66 Dominic Reyna Sr. 6-1 260 T/DT

67 Fabian Romero Sr. 6-0 210 DT/OG

68 Pedro Acuna Sr. 6-2 255 G/DT

70 Jorge Lozoya Jr. 5-8 230 G/NG

72 Alejandro Perez Jr. 6-2 290 T/DT

74 Isaiah Callahan Jr. 6-1 254 T/DT

75 Colton Nolen Sr. 6-4 260 T/DT

77 Tabor Stanfield Jr. 6-3 280 T/DT

79 Faustin Lopez Sr. 5-10 295 T/DT

80 Tanner Banister Sr. 5-10 160 WR

81 Brandon Brewer Sr. 6-0 166 WR/CB

82 Max Rodriguez Sr. 5-8 130 CB/WR

83 Pierce Hoyer Sr. 5-7 150 CB/WR

85 Christian Caldwell Jr. 6-0 170 WR/FS

87 Kenny Robinson Sr. 6-4 225 DT/TE

88 Justin Hawkins Sr. 6-0 184 TE/DE

89 Estevan Romero Jr. 6-1 188 LB/TE

 

SCHEDULE

August: 30 — Cherry Creek (Colo.), 7 p.m.

September: 7 — at Highland (Milne Stadium), 1 p.m.; 13 — Manzano, 7 p.m.; 20 — Cleveland, 7 p.m.; 27 — at Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.

October: 4 — Goddard, 7 p.m.; 11 — at Artesia, 7 p.m.; 18 — at Sandia (Wilson Stadium), 7 p.m; 25 — at Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x.

November: 8 — Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x.

x-Denotes district game.

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