Friday, September 30, 2011

Make or break for Hobbs? Cleveland tops in state?

Hobbs' Austin Hand makes a tackle against Artesia.
  As I sat down to write my preview for tonight's Hobbs/Alamogordo football game, I realized more and more the team that comes up short tonight (both teams enter the game with a 2-3 mark) is going to have a long road ahead of it if it wants to get in the 12-team Class 5A playoffs.
  For Hobbs, a loss would drop the Eagles to 2-4 with a home game against Lovington (winnable) and a road matchup with Goddard (going to be tough). Say Hobbs splits those games, the Eagles are 3-5 heading into district play with Clovis at home (the Wildcats are down, but still Clovis) and hit the road to play Carlsbad (the Cavemen have been impressive this season with wins over Mayfield and Artesia already under their belt).
  In my eyes, Hobbs would have to win at least one of those games to have a chance to get in and even still at 4-6 wouldn't be guaranteed a spot.
  A win tonight, a win against either Lovington or Goddard and a win against either Clovis or Carlsbad (a district win will be key) and I think Hobbs definitely makes the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

With Locksley gone, UNM needs to rebuild fans' trust

  To much of the surprise of nobody, the University of New Mexico cut loose football coach Mike Locksley on Sunday after two-plus seasons of misery for Lobos fans. Locksley went 2-26 during his tenure, including 0-4 this season after a loss to FCS opponent Sam Houston State on Saturday.
  While his on-the-field performance was poor at best, off the field was even worse. There was the suspension after punching a fellow coach, the verbal run-in with a student reporter, the sexual harassment suit and most recently Saturday when a man (supposedly a recruit) was arrested prior to the Lobos' game for suspicion of driving while intoxicated in a vehicle registered to Locksley's wife.
  While it will cost UNM $150,000 over each of the next two years, I bet it is worth it to Lobos fans to see him go.
  So, where does UNM go from here? 
  The most important objective UNM administration must accomplish is bringing fans and their support back to the program. The last two-plus years alienated many UNM football supporters as not only did Locksley lose, he also failed to recruit Division-I caliber, in-state talent (see Colorado 6-foot-5 wide receiver Tyler McCulloch from Eldorado in Albuquerque).

Friday, September 23, 2011

No time for Hobbs to dwell on brutal two-week stretch

Hobbs' Daniel Cornejo gets ready to tackle Cleveland's
Cole Gautsche on Friday in Rio Rancho.
  RIO RANCHO — There is no need to break down Hobbs' 54-0, mercy-rule loss to top-ranked Cleveland Friday night at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.
  The Storm were bigger, faster and stronger. Cleveland's defense was suffocating. For the second straight game, Hobbs couldn't get anything going offensively, gaining just 29 yards in the two quarters (the game ended on the third play of the third quarter when Cleveland scored to make it 54-0, forcing the 50-point mercy rule). This comes on the heels of Hobbs gaining just 80 yards during a 40-0 loss to second-ranked Las Cruces High last week.
  Hobbs coach Bruce Dollar said it best after the game if you're a Hobbs player or supporter. He told me while his team needs to learn from the mistakes of the last two games, his team can't dwell on the losses.
  Hobbs has run into two juggernauts – the two top teams in Class 5A (and arguably in the state, though Goddard may have something to say about that – a team Hobbs faces later this season). If the Eagles sulk and dwell on these last two contests, it can bite them in the rear during a winnable game this upcoming week against Alamogordo.
  A win next week against Alamogordo, which is also 2-3 on the season, would go a long way in helping the Eagles' playoff chances down the road.
  Yes, Hobbs can still make the playoffs – if it can shake off these losses, regroup and move forward starting at homecoming against the Tigers this Friday at Watson Stadium.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Hobbs on wrong end of numbers game, Eunice highlights

  I usually get to a football game I'm covering about an hour ahead of time so I can watch the teams warm up, see if anyone is not playing and to shoot the breeze with fellow journalists, athletic directors, radio guys or whoever.
  Nothing was different when I arrived at the Field of Dreams on Friday in Las Cruces for Hobbs' game against the second-ranked Bulldawgs. I went up to the press box for a bit, got my stat sheets together and prepared to cover the game from the sideline (I had to take photos as well).
  But something that was hard not to notice when watching Hobbs and Las Cruces warm up high from the press box was the drastic difference in number of players.
  I usually don't count, but I had to just because of the disparity. I counted Las Cruces about two or three times and got a number above 75 each time (not always easy to count players as they move around).
  When I got a number for Hobbs I had to check not once, twice or three times, but four times to make sure it was right.
  There were exactly 35 Eagles with white shirts and black pants dressed to play. That's it.
  For a 5A school with 2,176 high school age students (9th-12th grade), that is shockingly small and part of the reason why Hobbs football can't develop consistency as a program.
  Football is a numbers game. The more players, the better chance of developing varsity-contributing athletes. The more varsity-contributing athletes (with a few studs sprinkled in here and there), the better chance of being a state-championship contender.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Field of Nightmares for Eagles

  LAS CRUCES — Oh boy.
  The Field of Dreams was a nightmare for the Hobbs football team as second-ranked Las Cruces High blanked the Eagles 40-0 Friday (read the game story in Saturday's sports section of the Hobbs News-Sun). The Bulldawgs outgained Hobbs 475-80 – yes, the Eagles only managed 80 yards of offense.
  Hobbs had just one snap in Las Cruces territory, and that was a fumble recovered by Las Cruces.
  Sure, the Eagles struggled not having leading rusher Aderiole Moore (he missed the game due to a violation of team rules) and it didn't help that his replacement Keith Sanders was injured on the first play from scrimmage, but their presence wouldn't have changed much.
  Hobbs just didn't execute offensively. Rarely did Eagle ball carriers have space to run, Hobbs dropped passes and the Eagles missed open receivers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jal's Norman Cline passes away

  In more sad news dealing with Lea County athletics, long-time Jal coach Norman Cline died Wednesday.
  Cline was one of the first coaches I met when I came to work for the News-Sun over five years ago. He had a great sense of humor (like the rest of the Jal coaching staff) and always gave me grief for being a University of Oregon graduate.
  It's tough to see someone who dedicated their life to making a difference in others pass away. Sure, Cline led Jal to a state boys basketball title in 2000 and was part of the coaching staff of the 1999 Jal football state championship team, but he was more than that. He tried to help teenagers, like all good coaches do, become men and women. Cline was a fiery character who wore every win and loss on his sleeve, which I respected about him. When things were going well, he praised his players, and if things weren't going well, he took the blame. Cline will be missed.
  Cline's memorial service will be 2 p.m. Sunday in Jal.

Tatum volleyball on a roll, Urlacher's mother passes

  In case you haven't noticed, the Tatum volleyball team has had an impressive last few days.
  The two-time defending state champ and top-ranked Class 1A Lady Coyotes went to Roswell for the Zia Classic this past weekend, and as the only program in attendance under Class 3A, won the event. The tournament included teams such as Carlsbad, Clovis, Roswell, Goddard and more, eventually beating Lubbock Christian in the finals.
  Three days later on Tuesday, Tatum beat five-time defending state champ and top-ranked Class 2A Texico in five games – marking the first time in several years the Lady Coyotes have upended the Lady Wolverines.
  Tatum (4-2) appears to be gaining steam after being swept by 5A Clovis and losing to Texico in five games earlier this season. With junior Devanne Sours and senior Monica Ramirez at the net to go along good athletes in the back row such as Karina Cardenas, the Lady Coyotes are a tough matchup for anybody at any level. I wasn't at Tuesday's match (News-Sun sportswriter Brad Cox was there) but I'm excited to get a chance to cover them later in the year.
  On a sad note, it's been confirmed that Lovington graduate and Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's mother, Lavoyda Lenard, died Monday. I know some of you may have known her and my thoughts go out to you and Urlacher's family.
  Losing a mother is never easy. I lost my own mother almost two years ago to cancer and she would've turned 51 today (Sept. 14). People grieve differently so I hope people are sensitive to Urlacher and let him take the time he needs. Nobody should tell anybody else how to react to one's mother passing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Domingo Ayala is welcomed comedy relief for a sometimes stuffy game

  I'm a baseball guy. Loved the sport since I was little and played it as long as I could.
  But the game can be a bit stuffy – kind of stuck up.
  I'm part of the problem. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to the game. I don't want to see replays. I respect the baseball code.
  With that being said, I came across this character named Domingo Ayala thanks to NMJC coach Josh Simpson earlier this summer. He showed me Ayala's "Hitting A Home Run" YouTube "instructional" video (which I've posted).
  I was laughing so hard I nearly cried. I went home that night and watched every video (such as "Hitting for Average",  "Playing Catch for a Scout" and "Base Stealing") and was in stitches.
  I know it's football season in Lea County and I should be blogging about this week's Hobbs game (which I'll do later in the week) or something along those lines, but I ran across his new video with the University of Tennessee strength and conditioning coach and Ayala, got a good chuckle out of it and thought I'd share the laughter.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just what the Eagles needed

Hobbs' Isaiah Lintz returns a kick for a TD.
  As I said in my last blog entry, "The Big Mo" (as in momentum) was up for grabs Friday night when the Hobbs football team took on Roswell High at Watson Stadium – and the Eagles took it with a 43-28 win.
  It wasn't pretty by any means. The teams combined for nine turnovers, but luckily for Hobbs, it only had three of them and overcame a sub-par offensive night (262 yards of offense, only 54 in second half) thanks to great field position due to turnovers and big returns on kickoffs (including Isaiah Lintz's 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown) to come away with the win and much needed momentum for a tough two-game road swing (more on that in a second).
  Hobbs' defense bent but didn't break in the second half, creating four turnovers and allowing only two Roswell scores – both in the third quarter. While the Eagles' defense is a work in progress, what stood out Friday against the Coyotes was their hitting. This is the best hitting defense Hobbs has had since I started covering the team. It doesn't have the speed of past defenses, but for the most part, if an Eagle defender got a hand on a Roswell player, he made the tackle.

Friday, September 9, 2011

'The Big Mo' up for grabs in Hobbs matchup with Roswell

Hobbs' Keith Sanders
  There's no district title on the line. It's not a district game. Heck, it's not even a game against a team in its own classification.
  But the Hobbs football team's matchup with Roswell High 7 p.m. today at Watson Stadium is a pivotal one for the young and inexperienced Eagles.
  A win against an improving Roswell program, a team that nearly beat No. 8 Carlsbad in Carlsbad, for an unranked Hobbs (1-1) squad that played better in a week-two loss to Class 4A No. 2 Artesia then it did in a week-one win over Gadsden would go a long way when it comes to confidence and momentum heading into probably the toughest schedule in the state over the next two weeks.
  After tonight's game with the Coyotes, Hobbs travels to play Class 5A No. 2 Las Cruces High and follows it up with a trip north to face Class 5A No. 1 Cleveland in Rio Rancho.
  B. R. U. T. A. L.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Joe Langston Gym spells trouble for Eunice foes

Eunice's Laura Clack
  Joe Langston Gym in Eunice looks like any other gym – brick on the outside, concession stand as soon as you walk in and two seperate entrances in the front to reach the actual gym.
  But as you turn the corner to enter the gym, it's quickly apparent Joe Langston Gym isn't like most gyms.
  And it's what gives the Cardinals and Lady Cardinals a great home-court advantage, something I was reminded of when I covered the Eunice volleyball team's sweep of Dora on Tuesday.
  Quickly you'll notice the yellowish green lighting. I've never been in a gym lit like this. You almost feel like you have sunglasses with yellow lenses on. It's crazy (and drives photographers nuts as well. Tough to get clear action shots).
  The low ceiling is the next thing people will notice, particularly during volleyball matches. During Tuesday's contest against Eunice, Dora repeatedly bashed their digs and passes into the ceiling. Eunice did it as well, but having practiced at this gym for hour upon hour, day after day, the Lady Cardinals know how to play the carom off the ceiling.

Fantasy Football Drafts: A Growing Social Event

  With a cold soda and sandwich, I settled in front of my home computer and went to work early Monday on something of the utmost importance.
  Not a story, feature or column.
  It was fantasy football draft time.
  In a league appropriately called the Bush League, college buddies (including former News-Sun sports editor Jon Roetman), a few friends of theirs and my best friend since I was in grade school took about two hours trying to take the first giant step toward becoming Bush League XIV champ (we also play fantasy baseball, so this is the second half of our seventh season).
  Don't worry, I'm not here to explain how my draft went. Talking about your fantasy league in depth ranks right behind bad poker beat stories and just ahead of how your child's t-ball game went on the people-don't-give-a-crap meter.
  But drafts have become this sacred event. It's a time of bonding. While my league does its draft online because we have people in four different time zones, many pick a destination and have it there.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fanaticism: An epic roller coaster

  Sports fanaticism is an epic roller coaster ride, dishing out emotional highs and lows.
  Sometimes as a sports journalist, however, you grow a little cold to it. My job is to be an objective observer, not caring who wins or loses, and it desensitizes you as a sports fan. As Joe Friday in Dragnet so eloquently put it, "Just the facts, ma'am." That's what journalists are about.
  But as I raced home Saturday night to catch my alma mater Oregon take on LSU on my DVR – carefully avoiding the score for about two-plus hours (turning off my phone, not going on the internet) – fanaticism smacked me square in the face. It was great. It was the slow climb up that steep roller coaster.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Four hours, 65 points and 970 yards later ...

  Four hours, 65 points and 970 yards of offense later, Class 4A defending champ Artesia came out on top of Hobbs 45-20 in a game Friday at the Bulldog Bowl that was closer than the final score indicated, though Hobbs trailed from the first quarter on.
Hobbs RB Aderiole Moore (22)
  The Eagles couldn't get out of the way of their own offensive dominance (438 yards of offense, including 374 rushing at 8.3 yards per carry) as they lost three fumbles (two inside the Artesia 20) and had two touchdowns called back due to penalties (neither possession Hobbs scored).
  Hobbs running back Aderiole Moore had a break-out game, rushing for 242 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, and quarterback Brayden Price looked confident running the offense in just his second start, rushing for 65 yards (including 21 yards lost on two sacks) and 64 yards passing (which could've been more if not for a few dropped passes).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cardinals cruise, show class, give thanks

Eunice QB Tyler Almager
  The Class 2A second-ranked Eunice football team could've made it a short night at Watson Stadium.
  Taking a 41-0 lead over the Hobbs junior varsity early in the second quarter, the Cardinals pulled the majority of their starters and got their second string some time, avoiding the 50-point mercy rule (a New Mexico rule stating if a team is up by 50 points or more, the game is over).
  Even though the selfish-journalist-thinking-about-deadline part of me wouldn't have argued against an early end to the contest, the result of playing all four quarters was beneficial for the teams on the field - especially the Cardinals.
  Playing the game out gave Eunice backups valuable experience and time on the field that will be tougher to find later in the season. The Cardinals' schedule will get tougher, injuries happen and giving these guys time now will make them better prepared if an injury does occur and they have to step in.