Range Rider trophy returns to Clovis as Cougars beat Clovis West
Clovis beats Clovis West 27-23 as sophomore Tristan Risley rushes for 217 yards and game-winning TD in fourth quarter in comeback win.
Rivalry games are traditionally saved for last, the final build up culminating with a contest filled with passion, grit and, most of all, a legacy.
And for the first time since 2015, the Range Rider trophy is coming back to Clovis.
Led by sophomore Tristan Risley’s fourth quarter touchdown run on his way to 217 rushing yards and a stout second half Cougar defensive performance, Clovis rallied from a 20-14 halftime deficit to beat rival Clovis West 27-23 to close out the regular season at legendary Lamonica Stadium.
While the ripples may not be felt all the way to the midwest, this game still holds significant weight in the hearts of many since the two schools started playing in 1979.
“I’m not going to say it’s Ohio State vs Michigan but it’s the Ohio State vs Michigan of the Valley,” Clovis head coach Rich Hammond said. “It’s a huge deal. We all have to have success but you have to have success against your rival.”
Last year, Clovis West won on a last second TD pass from David Pierro to Cam Hicks.
However, this year it was Risley, oozing toughness and fire, who put the Cougars ahead 27-23 with 4:07 left in the game on a 6-yard touchdown run, capping a four and a half minute drive that started at their own 25-yard line.
“Sophomores grow up over a season and by the end Tristan played like a veteran,” Hammond added about the 5-foot-10, 155 pounder.
But Clovis (6-4, 3-2) certainly had to dig deep in this one after Clovis West senior quarterback Bradley Senneway threw a 5-yard TD to Isaiah Howard and a 45-yard slant and run by Dewayne Benjamin early in the second quarter that gave the Golden Eagles (3-7, 1-4) a 13-7 lead.
After an Isaiah Robles to Grant Lake 12-yard touchdown pass put the Cougars back on top at 14-13, Clovis West’s Nathan Mendoza scooped up a Robles fumble after a sack by Derek Moreland and raced for a 53-yard touchdown with 1:23 left in the half.
The Golden Eagles then took the second half kickoff and chewed off almost six minutes of clock, finishing with a 29-yard field goal and a 23-14 lead.
But, another sophomore, Nate Johnson, made perhaps the biggest momentum play of the game when the speedy receiver took a short pass and bolted 64 yards down the right sideline for a TD, cutting the lead to 23-21.
“That play took the wind out of them and put it in our sails,” Hammond said.
After Risley’s TD, a fumble recovery by Clovis’ Dylan Mason with 1:23 left thwarted a Clovis West final drive.
“Everything slowed down in my mind,” Mason said. “I was like ‘is that the ball?’ and then I hopped on it.”
Risley would convert a short fourth down run with 20 seconds left to seal a Cougars’ win.
Robles finished with 187 yards on 9-12 passing and added 65 yards on the ground while Johnson caught nine passes for 108.
“This was a great high school football game, and I’m just excited for us to come out on top,“ said Hammond, in his 11th year as the Cougars’ head coach. “The best part is to see smiles and joy and not tears.”