By Kevin Wilson
For the Highland Hornets and the Clovis Wildcats, the best thing about the opening week of the season is … that it is no longer the opening week of the season.
Neither Clovis nor Highland had a weekend they’d like to remember. On Friday, the Wildcats allowed touchdowns to Cherry Creek, Colo., on its first six possessions en route to a 42-6 loss that topped a 35-0 loss to Mayfield in 2007 as the worst opening-game loss in school history.
“We didn’t execute our plays, not at all,” senior tight end and defensive end Kenny Robinson said. “Defensively, we didn’t take care of our gaps.”
On Saturday afternoon, everything that could go wrong did for the Hornets, as Rio Rancho took a 42-0 halftime lead and nearly ended the game early via the 50-point mercy rule before Highland scored and eventually extended the game to the final horn and a 59-14 score.
The challenge comes down a little for each team in the 1 p.m. matchup at Milne Stadium, where Clovis hasn’t visited since sweeping a pair of games there in 2008 against Highland and Cibola.
“Highland doesn’t have nine Division-I players like Cherry Creek,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. “Highland runs the spread, and they don’t run any tight end sets out of it.
“Their quarterback’s a really good athlete. Their running back is good, and they’ve got a couple of receivers that can go the distance.”
Highland coach Derek Maestas couldn’t be reached for comment.
The challenge is on each team to get to avoid an 0-2 hole on the season, and Clovis has lost eight straight games in Bernalillo County since a 2010 playoff win over the Hornets at F.M. Wilson Stadium.
“You’re out of your routine,” Roanhaus said of Clovis’ only Saturday game in the regular season. “We get on a bus around 5:30, we play in the heat of the day. But we practice in the heat of the day, so we should be OK.”
Highland had its biggest setbacks last week on special teams, including a blocked punt, a high snap and a punt returned inside the 30. All told, Roanhaus said, Rio Rancho started five first-half drives inside the Hornet 40.
Clovis, meanwhile, could be described as having a grade of “incomplete” on special teams last week. Six of Cherry Creek’s seven kickoffs and its only punt were touchbacks, and the one kick that didn’t reach the end zone was a high-arcing kick that was only returned to the 21.
The Wildcats defeated Highland 67-12 last season, and have won the last seven games by a combined score of 243-52. But none of that helps the 0-1 Wildcats in 2013.
“The way we shot ourselves in the foot last week,” Roanhaus said, “we can’t afford to be overconfident. We’ve got to work about our football team and how we play, and limit some of the mistakes up front.”
Clovis at Highland
1 p.m., Milne Stadium
On the radio: KCLV 1240 AM/99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM.
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 36th season, 316-123-5. Highland, Derek Maestas, third season, 9-14.
Last week: The Wildcats were routed by Cherry Creek (Colo.) 42-6. The Hornets were defeated by top-ranked Rio Rancho 59-14.
Last meeting: 2012, Clovis 67-12. The Wildcats lead the overall series 19-7, and have won the last seven.
Hornet players to watch: QB Bryan Medina, Sr., 6-2, 210; WR Ethan Conley, Jr., 5-11, 150.
— by Kevin Wilson