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Bullard throttles Clovis in D-I quarterfinal

Clovis falls behind 41-0 at half as Bullard’s Shalom Welch scores five total touchdowns in 47-21 Cougar loss.

Playoff football is about execution, stringing together four quarters of quality football, and limiting big plays by the opposition. 

Unfortunately for Clovis, they whiffed on all three. 

Behind four first half touchdowns from Bullard running back Shalom Welch, the No. 4 Knights pummeled No. 5 Clovis 41-0 in the first half en route to a 47-21 win, shocking the Cougars with big plays and a stout defense to advance to the Central Section semifinal and a date with No. 1 Central, ending Clovis’ season on a sour note at McLane Stadium.

Clovis came in firing on all cylinders, winning its last three games including a 56-7 thrashing of Arroyo Grande a week earlier to open the playoffs. The Cougars also came in averaging 33 points per game on the season. 

However, they couldn’t stop the shifty and speedy Welch, who burned the Cougars for TD runs of 42, 40 and 53 yards and a 14-yard TD catch in the first half for Bullard’s first score. The senior added a 62-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 47-14. 

“I thought our guys played hard but we just couldn’t stop anything or block in the first half. It just didn’t allow us to have anything positive,” Clovis coach Rich Hammond said. “It’s hard in the last game like this. It’s not how you want to go out.”

Clovis senior Grant Lake hauls in a touchdown pass from Isaiah Robles in the Cougars 47-21 playoff loss to Bullard. (PHOTO BY STAN MIYAKE)

By the time Clovis (7-5) registered its first first down Bullard (9-2) was up 21-0 with 1:22 left in the first quarter. 

“He obviously made a lot of plays tonight and we didn’t tackle him well enough to give ourselves a chance to win,” Hammond said about the 6-foot, 200 pound senior. 

Bullard beat Clovis 19-7 in Week 3 at Ratcliffe Stadium, but after quarterbacks Bryce Weiner and Jaden Pierucci (1,930 passing yards combined with 23 TDs) went down with injuries during the season, in stepped Kai Sunamoto, all of 5-foot-6 and 122 pounds. 

Sunamoto engineered the offense with precision all game as the Knights scored on every first half possession.

In addition to the 14-yard TD pass to Welch, Sunamoto toss a 14-yard TD to Jalen O’Neal in the first quarter.  

Clovis finally got on the board midway through the third quarter when the senior combo of Isaiah Robles to Grant Lake hooked up on a 7-yard TD, Lake’s tenth TD catch of the season. 

Sophomore Tristan Risely, who emerged as one of the top young running backs in the Central Section, scored on TD runs of 1 and 9 yards in the second half but it wasn’t enough.

“We just didn’t have enough time to give ourselves a chance to come back,” Hammond added. “That part was unfortunate.”

Hammond was quick to point out the play of junior defensive lineman Keanu Williams. The 6-foot-5, 285 pound major college recruit demanded constant double teaming all evening.

But four turnovers in the game – two interceptions and two fumbles – along with Bullard’s quick-strike rushing TDs, would prove too much for the Cougars’ to overcome. 

“I feel bad for the kids,” Hammond added. “Obviously for the seniors this is the last game but when you walk off you want to feel good about it. We didn’t tonight.”

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