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Deja vu; Clovis East falls again to San Joaquin Memorial

Clovis East is now 3-2 after not finding the end zone in the second half in 20-17 loss to San Joaquin Memorial for the second year in a row.

Clovis East bottled up the Panthers’ offensive for most of the game but gave up two passing TDs in the second half in 20-17 loss. (PHOTO BY JENNIFER ISOM SCHMIDTKE)

CLOVIS – Well, there’s one thing we know for certain about Clovis East; the boys in silver, white and navy blue are going to battle every game.

With a ball-controlled offense – three yards and a cloud of dust is their motto – the Timberwolves relish ball possession, forcing opponents to play at their pace. 

Enter San Joaquin Memorial and its 44.3 points per game, the Central Section’s top team in Division II featuring three D-I college-bound players.

But the Timberwolves’ defense has been stout all year too, allowing only three touchdowns all season in a 3-1 start, none through the air. 

However, for a second straight year, Clovis East couldn’t find the end zone in the second half against a talented San Joaquin Memorial squad as the Timberwolves (3-2) fell to the Panthers 20-17 behind junior quarterback Finn Collins’ three TD passes – one to Washington commit Jalen McMillan and two to Fresno State commit Mac Delena.

Clovis East quarterback Sean Kelly rushed for two touchdowns in the first half on runs on 10 and 16 yards and the T-Wolve defense held San Joaquin Memorial (4-1) to seven points through almost three quarters. 

But it wasn’t quite enough.

“Key situations especially defensively,” Clovis East head coach Ryan Reynolds said about this year’s loss. “Key stops, we just have to come up with those plays.”

The Timberwolves certainly had their chances but bad luck combined with the receiving duo of McMillan and Delena proved too much.

After Clovis East junior kicker Bryant Thao’s 37-yard field goal extended the Timberwolves’ lead to 17-13 with 8:02 left in the fourth, Memorial, aided by a controversial pass interference call, went up 20-13 on a 13-yard TD pass from Collins to Delena with 4:35 left. 

On the final Panther drive the defense allowed a first down on 4th and 1 from the 40-yard line on a Jordan Hornbeak run. Then, after forcing a 4th and 7, a penalty flag was thrown after it appeared no contact was made before the sailed over Delena’s head.

Clovis East had one last push, driving to the Panthers’ 35 yard line. But Kelly’s pass on 4th and 12 fell incomplete with 41 seconds left. 

McMillan, a top national recruit with offers from USC, Notre Dame and Alabama, scored on a 78-yard TD catch and run in the first quarter to tie the score at seven. 

“The kids fought and played hard, we have tough kids,” said Reynolds, in his second year as head coach. “We are going to be in every game. The next five weeks are going to be a battle and it’s going to be fun.”

The Timberwolves were missing kick returner and running back A.J. Hodgerney to injury and relied heavily on the tough-nosed running of Jo’Nation Dejohnette, Chandler Hamilton and Kelly. 

“The offense did a great job keeping the ball,” Reynolds said in a game they didn’t punt. “Our guys did a great job of driving and falling forward. Joe, Chandler and Sean are explosive and dynamic.”

Despite the Panthers only suiting up 22 players, they matched the Timberwolves in intensity, namely Delena, a precise route-running slot receiver who doubles as a ball-hawking safety. 

Clovis East’s Jacob Tafolla tackles San Joaquin Memorial’s Jordan Hornbeak (PHOTO BY JENNIFER ISOM SCHMIDTKE)

The 5-foot-10, 165 pound senior made two outstanding plays; tackling Kelly in the open field after a 9-yard gain on the drive that ended with Thao’s field goal and bolting and batting down a Kelly pass to Hamilton, a play that would have put the Timberwolves at first and goal from the 7-yard line with 50 seconds left. 

Clovis East will use their bye week to prepare for Clovis, who fell 43-34 at Liberty, in the league opener on October 4 at Lamonica Stadium. 

“I’m looking forward to watching film tomorrow and seeing a little more in depth what we as coaches can do to help us in situations,” Reynolds said. “I really want to dive into that this week.”

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