CLOVIS – The wheels came off in the second half for the Sanger High football team at Lamonica Stadium on Thursday night, Aug. 31, resulting in a bad outcome against an explosive Clovis East High squad.
Turnovers and penalties, and most notably an early third quarter fumble that set up a short field, led to two big play touchdown passes from Clovis East juniors Tyus Miller to Harold Duvall. That broke a 14-14 halftime tie, and the Timberwolves never looked back while rolling to a 42-21 victory over the Apaches in the annual Silver Spear trophy matchup.
Quarterback Jaden Chanthalangsy and running back Conner Bohlken scored first half touchdowns for Sanger (2-1), the latter coming in the closing seconds of the half and seemingly giving the Apaches momentum for the final 24 minutes. But the self-inflicted mistakes created a wave of negative momentum that swept away hopes of a road victory.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say right now, (it’s) frustrating,” said coach Matt Logue, reeling from the defeat and the injury late in the game to two-way starter Marshall Pittman because of a dislocated elbow. “They’re a good team, and you can’t do things to hurt yourself when you play on a good team.”
Clovis East linebacker Jax Koontz intercepted a Chanthalangsy pass to put the hosts in the red zone before Marquis Cropper’s pass theft got the ball back for Sanger. But the Timberwolves recovered an Apaches fumble at the 35 and on the first play Miller’s deep ball to the right was snagged by Duvall, who out-leaped defender Carlos Young in a spirited battle for the ball and fell into the end zone.
After a holding penalty derailed a subsequent Sanger possession, Miller lofted another long pass from near midfield down the right sideline to Duvall. Despite tight coverage from Young, the junior made a stretching grab and fell into the end zone to make it 28-14.
“That’s Harold, he’s been doing that since day one,” Clovis East coach Brandon Nagle, a former Reedley High coach, said of Duvall. “He’s a hell of a player, and he works so hard.”
Sanger couldn’t regain its footing, punting again, and Clovis East delivered the dagger with a long drive started by a play action pass to the tight end that moved it past midfield. Miller then found Tommy Nix on a long pass inside the SHS 5, and a play later, running back Caleb Slocum scored standing. The extra point kick made it 35-14 with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
Duvall then put an exclamation point on the Clovis East run, intercepting a downfield pass by Chanthalangsy at the CE 38 and then following a convoy of blockers down the sideline for a 62-yard return with just under seven minutes remaining. Sanger closed the game with a final scoring drive, getting big runs from Israel Robles capped by a 2-yard TD with less than two minutes remaining.
Penalties on offense plagued Sanger much of the night, including a first-quarter holding call that negated a 60-yard touchdown run by Bryson Baker on a fly sweep.
“We moved the ball well all night, we would get four, five or six yards on first down and then get a false start or then we’d get a holding (call),” Logue said. “Our offense, we’re not built to play behind the chains.”
With its second straight win in the Silver Spear series, Clovis East (3-0) takes an 8-7 lead in the spirited series that has produced some heated exchanges on the field.
“They’re a well coached team, and we know it’s a rivalry,” Nagle said of Sanger. “We talked all week about having a four-quarter game, finishing the hunt, finding that chip on our shoulder and finding whatever it takes to win and finish the game.”
The early season road doesn’t get any easier for Sanger, which stays on the road for a visit to Kings County to take on the reigning Central Section Division II champion Lemoore High Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8. The Apaches’ final game before County Metro Athletic Conference play will be back home on Friday, Sept, 15 against Centennial High from Bakersfield.