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No panic; Buchanan shakes off poor start to beat Clovis on fourth quarter TD pass

Buchanan star running back Kendall Milton scores three times and soph QB Ian Kirby throws for two in 27-20 win over Clovis.

Matt Giordano took a deep breath, surveyed the field at Lamonica Stadium and flashed a smile.

“Look at these kids, they’re all covered in grass stains and blood,” Giordano said. “I’m proud of our boys.”

And why shouldn’t he; his Bears had just dispatched Clovis by rallying from an early thirteen point deficit to beat the Cougars 27-20 in sub-60 degree football weather in a good ol’ fashioned rivalry game.   

Fueled by 5-star recruit Kendall Milton’s three touchdowns and sophomore quarterback Ian Kirby’s 37-yard TD pass to Stephen Shelley with 3:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears shook off a poor start but – most important – finished strong in improving to 5-3 on the season and 2-1 in league.  

“The guys on the sideline kept their energy up,” Buchanan center and defensive lineman Zane Rix said. “It’s was a good rally to come back. It was just hard fought.”

Clovis sophomore Nathan Johnson scores on a 16-yard TD pass from Isaiah Robles in the first quarter against Buchanan. The Cougars were up 13-0 early but couldn’t hold on to the lead as they fell to 4-4 overall and 1-2 in league (PHOTO BY STAN MIYAKE)

After Buchanan muffed the opening kickoff and Clovis recovered, Isaiah Robles found sophomore Nathan Johnson on a slant for a 16-yard TD and a 6-0 lead. With 3:02 left in the first quarter running back Tristan Risley put the Cougars (4-4, 1-2) ahead 13-0 when the talented sophomore found the right edge for a 14-yard score.

No panic, no problem for the Bears, who have played Top 10 state ranked Narbonne and No. 3 De La Salle during non-league. 

“There’s been a couple of games where we’ve started slow but I was proud of our guys how they kept calm and composed,” Giordano added. “That’s going to help us as we get far down the road.”

Buchanan’s Kendall Milton (No. 2) looks to gain yardage against Clovis. The Georgia commit scored three touchdowns in the win. (PHOTO BY STAN MIYAKE)

And when you have a running back the caliber of Milton, a senior and Georgia commit who was promoted to varsity midway through his freshman season, you’ll always have a chance. 

Milton, showing speed, power and elusiveness all evening, answered with touchdown runs of 7 yards late in the first quarter and 25 yards midway through the second as the Bears dug themselves out of a hole and tied the game at 13 at half. 

“Kendall Milton is Kendall Milton,” Giordano said. “He’s a special person and a special football player. They [Clovis] were trying their best to stop him in the run and hats off to them. We just had to do our job and get him in space.”

Then he QB Kid took over, tossing a swing pass to Milton midway through the third quarter for a 57-yard TD and a 20-13 lead. Clovis would answer in the fourth quarter when Robles found Grant Lake in the right side of the end zone on a double move for a 22-yard TD. 

Kirby – who finished with 321 yards passing on 14 of 20 attempts – then threw the game-winner to Shelley on a perfectly lofted pass over the middle. The stout Bears’ defense would hold firm when a final Cougar drive was stopped on a fourth down incomplete pass.

“Just trying to win the game honestly, the win is the most important thing,” Shelley said when asked what he was thinking before the play. 

And he had high praise for the one who threw the pass: “Ian Kirby for a sophomore is awesome. Love him.”

Not bad for someone brought up to varsity just four weeks ago. No wonder Giordano is all smiles. 

Buchanan now turns its attention to Clovis East (4-4, 1-2) at Lamonica Stadium while Clovis takes on Clovis North (6-2, 1-2) at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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