By Kevin Wilson
Even against the cold winds that swept through Community Stadium Friday night, even against a team many in the state figured would upset it, the Valley Vikings formula worked much as it has all season.
Experience, plus confidence, equals dominance.
The top-seeded Vikings proved worthy in their first defense of the No. 1 seed, pulling away with 35 consecutive points as part of a 55-28 quarterfinal victory over the eighth-seeded Clovis Wildcats.
For notching its first win over Clovis since 1960, Valley (11-0) will either host Sandia or travel to Las Cruces next week. The Wildcats’ season finishes at 6-6.
“It was nice going in as the underdog, with a lot of people believing we were going to get beat by Clovis,” Valley coach Enrico Marcelli said. “We talked to the kids all week about what’s important, We didn’t worry about the weather, and the kids did a good job of focusing all week.”
Unfazed by the inclement conditions, quarterback Bo Coleman led a veteran-laden offense to near-perfection, with 7-of-12 passing for 117 yards and three touchdowns to go with 150 yards on 12 carries. Senior running back Rob Armijo had 187 yards on 21 carries, and registered a rushing and receiving touchdown in Valley’s 489-yard night.
“They’re obviously very good offensively,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said of Valley. “They start 11 seniors on offense. It’s a good group.”
The Vikings never punted and scored on eight of their 10 drives — one ending on the 11 by a Peyton Lott interception and another a victory-formation kneeldown after Clovis’ last-gasp onside kick attempt died a yard short of the required 10 yards to be playable.
“Their two tackles and their two guards were strong and fast,” Clovis linebacker Kordell Tindle said. “They didn’t miss blocks. The quarterback could run the ball against us, and he could throw it. They’re a pretty potent offense.”
Clovis, meanwhile, started strong with the 1-2 punch of Shaprei Bryant and Kamal Cass, whose status was questionable with a medial sprain.
But it was other health issues did the Wildcats in.
“We’re up 21-20 and we lose Kenny Robinson,” Roanhaus said. “Pedro Acuna was our best blocker, and we lost him in the Sandia game. Kenny was our second best blocker. We never did recover from that
“We got down by two touchdowns and we had to take some chances, and we didn’t protect the quarterback.”
Bryant scored on runs of 40 and 8 yards, while Cass opened Clovis’ scoring with a 4-yard burst.
Cass’ MRI earlier this week revealed surgery wouldn’t be needed, but Roanhaus only played Cass until the Viking lead stretched to 27 in the second half.
The Wildcats’ other touchdown came in the final minute of the game, as senior Traivon Sopila caught a bomb from Dakotah Yandell at the 2, then weaved through a pair of Viking defenders for a 35-yard score.