Slow start costs Atwater football team against Clovis

slynch@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 26, 2013 

— Bob Valladao's squad fought until the final whistle.

Atwater even made the game's final play interesting, with Clovis fumbling the snap on an attempted kneel-down.

Unfortunately for the Falcons, their fourth-quarter comeback bid just ran out of time. The Falcons dug too big a hole to overcome.

Clovis raced out to a 17-point lead and Atwater never fully recovered in a 30-22 Golden Cougars victory on Thursday night at Lamonica Field.

"That's a really good team over there," Atwater coach Bob Valladao said. "You can't spot them seven points. We just didn't come out ready to play.

"I liked the way we fought. We made some nice adjustments in the second half, but we just couldn't quite ever overcome that first quarter."

A botched snap on a punt attempt on Atwater's opening possession may have decided the game.

Clovis kicked a 20-yard field goal on its opening possession and then was handed the ball at the Atwater 2-yard line after the bad snap. Fabian Serna cashed in the short field with a 1-yard TD run to make it 10-0.

Marlon Watkins (25 carries, 174 yards) broke free for a 79-yard TD run on Clovis' next series, and just like that it was 17-0.

Ronald Evans gave Atwater life on the ensuing kickoff, returning it 95 yards to the Clovis 1. Jojo Ochoa did the rest, punching it in for a 1-yard touchdown.

That would be it for the Falcons offense in the first half.

Watkins tacked on another touchdown run and Clovis (4-1) went into intermission with a comfortable 24-7 lead.

The defenses took over in the third quarter until Clovis quarterback RJ Hartmann finally got loose for a 33-yard touchdown pass to Brett Stelling in the final minute of the third quarter.

It looked like it could be the dagger, but Atwater (3-2) got late life from Jesse Molina.

Nathan Duran pitched to Molina on the option and the running back caught a block down the left sideline, slipped a defender and sprinted 67 yards for the score.

The Atwater defense did its part, forcing three-and-outs from Clovis on consecutive series. But the Golden Cougars answered with a pair of interceptions.

Ochoa gave Atwater one final chance when he recovered a fumble at the Clovis 47-yard line.

The Falcon passing game took advantage, connecting on three completions, including a 9-yard TD pass to Daniel Uribe with 1:31 to play. A two-point conversion made it 30-22 Clovis.

The Golden Cougars didn't field the ensuing onside kick cleanly, but managed to secure it anyway and a big third-down conversion from Watkins helped Clovis run out the clock.

"The defense gave us a chance," Valladao said. "The offense finally took advantage in the last minute, but it was just a little too late."

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