By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
After struggling last week against Mayfield, it took Clovis High’s offense a while to find the groove Friday night against Pampa, Texas.
Held without a first down for nearly 1 1/2 quarters, junior Brian Mead got the Wildcats rolling with an 87-yard kickoff return and the offense took over from there in a 34-13 victory over the Harvesters at Leon Williams Stadium.
Saddled with a net of 14 yards on his first six carries, Mead helped set up the Cats’ go-ahead touchdown late in the half, then broke loose for two more touchdowns in the third quarter as Clovis pulled away.
With the Cats (1-1) starting from their own 20 after a touchback on the second-half kickoff, Mead promptly ripped off gains of 35 and 15 yards on the first two plays. After a 19-yard run by fullback Tanner Fickling, Mead went off left tackle and into the end zone from 11 yards out to open a 21-7 lead just over a minute into the third quarter.
The next time they got the ball, the Cats put together another 80-yard drive, this one in seven plays. Mead had runs of 11 and 25 yards before capping it by breezing in off left tackle from 12 yards out.
Mead finished with 196 yards 19 carries.
“We just played harder in the second half,” CHS assistant coach Darren Kelley said. “When you go down the field and score like that, that helps.”
Kelley said the main difference was improved blocking by the line.
“We still didn’t do a great job of blocking, but we did a better job (than in last week’s 7-0 loss at Mayfield),” Kelley said.
Even Mead admitted surprise at the team’s turnaround.
“The whole offense really started clicking,” he said. “I was a little surprised how quick (that drive) went. It didn’t seem like we were on the field that long.”
Fickling seemed to benefit from Mead’s sudden eruption, gaining 75 of his 93 yards in the second half and finishing off the scoring on a 23-yard run with 5:53 left in the game.
Clovis took a 14-7 lead with 3:45 left in the half on a 17-yard pass from Devin Sweet — his only completion in four attempts — to senior Rishard Matthews. That score was set up by runs of 8, 15 and 39 yards by Mead, accounting for the Cats’ first three first downs of the game.
Pampa (1-1) scored less than two minutes into the second quarter when senior wide receiver Sharod Brown went 28 yards on an end-around. The Harvesters’ other touchdown came on the first play of the final quarter, a 5-yard run by quarterback Brody Smith after he avoided a Clovis blitz.
“I don’t think they (Cats) did anything different,” first-year Pampa coach Bryan Wood said of Clovis’ turnaround, “except their linemen came out and played better (in the second half).”
Clovis finished with a 341-321 margin in total offense after gaining only 101 yards before halftime, and had a 19-17 edge in first downs after trailing in that department early on 7-0.
Senior strong safety Devin Hanson, who filled in briefly at running back when Mead went to the sideline with a tweaked ankle in the final quarter, said playing from in front made a difference.
“We’re all starting to grow up,” said Hanson, who is playing with a cast on his right thumb after suffering dislocated ligaments in the Mayfield game. “That’s what we needed to do, and this game was a big win for us.”