CLOVIS — There are 100-meter sprinters who operate with less urgency than the Cleveland High School offense did Friday night.
The Storm set a feverish pace from the first snap of the game, scored two touchdowns in every quarter and gained 658 yards against on an overmatched Clovis defense as No. 3 seed Cleveland beat No. 2 Clovis 56-43 in a Class 6A semifinal at cold Leon Williams Stadium.
“At the end of the day, we just made a couple of more plays than they did down the stretch,” Storm coach Heath Ridenour said.
Cleveland (10-2) will face one of its District 1-6A rivals in the final next week. No. 1 Volcano Vista and No. 4 Rio Rancho battle in the other semi at 1 p.m. Saturday at Nusenda Community Stadium. The Storm has been in the 6A championship game three times in the last five seasons, including last year.
Friday’s hugely enthralling game, played at a very high level by both teams, featured a whopping eight lead changes.
The last of the eight was a 22-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Dorian Lewis with 1:18 to go in the third quarter, which gave Cleveland (10-2) a 42-36 lead.
But the Storm was still nursing a 49-43 lead as the clock was winding down in the fourth quarter. Cleveland was hit with 50 yards in penalties during one series, and found itself in a second-and-24 from its 30 with about 2½ minutes remaining. The Storm, which scored touchdowns on eight of its nine full offensive series, provided the dagger.
Junior quarterback Jeff Davison — who threw for 347 yards on just 12 completions — went over the top for the dagger, a 70-yard rainbow strike to Trey Ortega for the game-clinching touchdown with 2:19 left, and a 56-43 lead.
“The first option was closed up, so I was like, shoot, he’s open, so I just chucked it up,” said Davison. “God answered my prayers for that one.”
It was the second TD Cleveland scored in a 2nd-and-24 situation Friday night. Had Clovis forced a punt, the Wildcats would have had the ball, down six, with a chance to win.
“What a perfect ball,” Clovis coach Cal Fullerton said of the last Davison throw. “They made a huge play right there when they needed to.”
The Clovis defense could never get off the field, except for one Davison interception in the first half. The Storm, which is up-tempo anyway, was sprinting up to the line after every snap and had the Wildcats on their heels throughout.
“That’s our offense,” said Cleveland running back Lewis, who scored four touchdowns and rushed for 204 yards on 32 carries. “When everyone is healthy, we get to moving.”
Lewis and his counterpart, Clovis junior Jeston Webskowski, were involved in their own duel Friday. And what a sight it was.
Webskowski rushed for 282 yards on 28 carries, and five touchdowns, including scoring runs of 78 and 50 yards.
There was a total of 1,182 yards of offense in the game.
Clovis, appearing in the semifinals for the first time since 2009, finishes 8-4. Both QB Harris and Webskowski will be returning next season.
“They have a lot of guys going both ways, so we had to push tempo and really push the conditioning in this game to have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter,” Ridenour said.
No. 3 CLEVELAND 56, No. 2 CLOVIS 43
Cleveland 14 14 14 14 — 56
Clovis 3 19 14 7 — 43
Scoring: Cle, Dorian Lewis 1 run (Trey Ortega kick); Clo, Jose Mendoza 22 FG; Cle, Lewis 15 run (Ortega kick); Clo, Jeston Webskowski 78 run (run failed); Clo, Webskowski 2 run (run failed); Cle, Luke Wysong 68 pass from Jeff Davison (Ortega kick); Clo, Malik Phillips 24 pass from Chance Harris (Mendoza kick); Cle, Ortega 27 pass from Davison (Ortega kick); Clo, Webskowski 50 run (Mendoza kick); Cle, Lewis 5 run (Ortega kick); Clo, Webskowski 5 run (Mendoza kick); Cle, Lewis 22 run (Ortega kick); Cle, Davison 1 run (Ortega kick); Clo, Webskowski 2 run (Mendoza kick); Cle, Ortega 70 pass from Davison (Ortega kick). Records: Cle 10-2; Clo 8-4.
First downs—Cle 28; Clo 24. Rushes-yards: Cle 49-311; Clo 36-298. Passing: Cle 12-16-1—347; Clo 17-30-2—226. Total offense: Cle 658; Clo 524. Punts-avg.: Cle 0-0; Clo 1-43.0. Fumbles-lost: Cle 2-0; Clo 0-0. Penalties-yards: Cle 9-79; Clo 5-35.
CLASS 5A SEMIS: No. 1 seed Roswell cruised past fifth-ranked Deming 49-12 on Friday night at the Wool Bowl. The Coyotes (12-0) will either be in Roswell next week to face rival Goddard, or will visit Los Lunas, in the state final next weekend.
The No. 3 Rockets and No. 2 Tigers meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Wool Bowl.