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.
  It's somewhat similar for Alamogordo. A win tonight gets it to .500 at 3-3 heading into district play. The Tigers have winnable games against Gadsden and Oñate while it will be an uphill climb against traditional powers Mayfield and Las Cruces. If Alamogordo wins tonight then beats both Gadsden and Oñate, it will be in the conversation for a playoff spot at 5-5 (not guaranteed with no quality win).
  As you can see, whoever wins tonight at Watson Stadium will be much closer to a playoff spot then the one who walks off the field in defeat.
  Is it Cleveland's title to lose?
  For those of you who don't know, top-ranked Cleveland went on the road (well, all the way to Albuquerque from Rio Rancho) and thrashed No. 3 Manzano 67-35 Thursday evening and I've heard many say the Storm are far and away the best team in Class 5A.
  There may be a team south of Albuquerque on I-25 that may have something to say about that.
  The Las Cruces Bulldawgs.
  Covering Hobbs, I've got an up-close look at both No. 1 Cleveland and No. 2 Las Cruces the last two weeks and I don't think Cleveland is head and shoulders above Las Cruces.
  You are probably saying, "Cleveland mercy-ruled Hobbs just after halftime 54-0 and Las Cruces only won 40-0."
  Las Cruces, and no pun intended here, called off the dogs (Or dawgs in its case. Sorry, couldn't help it) in the third quarter. The Bulldawgs feature a pounding ground game, and while its quarterback wasn't accurate throwing the ball, he can run it and Las Cruces' offensive line will open holes for stud back Xavier Hall.
  Sure, Cleveland has a better quarterback in New Mexico State commit Cole Gautsche and he has some weapons. But Las Cruces' defense is good ... I mean really good and it hits hard. Against Hobbs, the Storm's offense stuttered at times (particularly throwing the ball) and seemed out of sync. Cleveland benefited from the Eagles turning it over four times inside their own 30, all leading to short touchdown drives, as well as a punt return for a score. 
  I know, to say the Storm's offense seemed out of sync after putting up 121 points in the last two games seems ridiculous, but remember, Manzano is the same program that gave up 69 points to Mayfield in last season's state title game.
  Cleveland is very good, don't get me wrong, but I just wouldn't count out Las Cruces High yet. The Bulldawgs will have something to say about it before things are said and done.