CLOVIS — There are 100-meter sprinters who operate with less urgency than the Cleveland High School offense did on Friday night.
The Storm set a feverish pace from the first snap of the game, scored two touchdowns in every quarter, hung 658 yards on an overmatched Clovis defense and 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 battled in the 1 p.m. semi Saturday (Nov. 23) at Nusenda Community Stadium. The Storm have 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, and Cleveland led 42-36.
But the Storm were 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, scoring 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.”
The Clovis defense could never get off the field, except for one Davison interception in the first half. The Storm, up-tempo anyway, were sprinting up to the line after every snap and had the Wildcats on their heels throughout.
“That’s our offense,” said Cleveland senior running back Dorian 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 was brilliant, rushing for 282 yards on 28 carries, and five touchdowns, including scoring runs of 78 and 50 yards.
Clovis, appearing in the semifinals for the first time since 2009, finished 8-4. Both QB Harris and Webskowski will be returning next season.
Storm warnings: Cleveland has won 10 or more games for five years in a row.
… The Storm and Wildcats, who had been 6-0 at home this season, met every season from 2010-15, and Cleveland was 6-0 in those meetings.
(James Yodice of the Journal contributed the bulk of this story.)