Rick White: Freedom Newspapers
Sporting a 100-watt, gap-toothed smile, Diondre Hunter sounded like an awestruck sophomore in the locker room after the game, addressing his senior teammates as mister.
However, he didn’t play like one on the field.
Making his first varsity start due to an injury, Hunter intercepted the first pass thrown in his direction and returned in 68 yards for a touchdown as Clovis buried Highland 41-7 on Friday in front of a large homecoming crowd at Leon Williams Stadium.
“I took my two steps back like Mr. Hanson taught me,” said Hunter, pointing to senior Devin Hanson across the locker room, “I saw the receiver make his break and I read the quarterback’s eyes. Then I just cut in front.”
With a half-dozen Hornets in tow, Hunter scampered down the right sideline, beating the last defender at the Highland 10 to give Clovis a 14-0 lead five minutes into the game.
“Diondre did a good job, especially since it was his first time playing in a high school game at any level,” Clovis defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said. “He hasn’t played with the sophomores or the junior varsity because he’s been a backup up here.
“He made a few mistakes, but experience will take care of that.”
Hunter had plenty of help in the big-play department from junior Rishard Matthews, who rebounded from an early tongue-lashing from his head coach for fumbling to score a pair of touchdowns, including a 78-yard punt return that staked Clovis (2-1) to a 28-0 lead with seven minutes still left in the first half.
“Sometimes I just try to run before I have the ball,” said Matthews, who added a 68-yard punt return to set up the final score of the Wildcats’ 41-point first half.
On his 78-yard score, Chris Finch’s crushing block near the Clovis 40 took care of the final Highland defender.
“I saw (the defender) there, and then all of a sudden he was out of the picture,” said Matthews, who also scored on a 7-yard run and intercepted a pass.
Kelley said Matthews, who is playing organized football for the first time since eighth grade, is only going to get better as he gains experience.
“We’ll find ways to get him the ball if he’ll just hold on to it,” Kelley said.
The Wildcats dominated their smaller opponents from the start, taking the opening kickoff and driving 65 yards in eight plays for a score.
Brian Mead capped off the drive with his first of two 1-yard touchdowns. Working mostly between the tackles, the shifty junior finished the game with 125 yards on 17 carries. It was his second-straight 100-yard game.
Highland (1-2) finished with 126 yards.