Monday, October 31, 2011

NMJC hoops begin play this week; USW already underway

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
NMJC freshman Lorelle Waters grabs an alley-oop with
one hand for a dunk during practice.
  Hard to believe but basketball season is here for local college teams New Mexico Junior College and University of the Southwest.
  While the USW men and women got underway this past weekend at the Santa Claren Classic in Espanola (the Mustangs went 1-1 while the Lady Mustangs went 2-0), the NMJC women get underway Tuesday night when the Lady Thunderbirds host Cochise 5:45 p.m. at Caster Activity Center.
  The NMJC men's team gets its season underway Thursday during the first day of the Thunderbird Classic when the T-Birds host the University of the Southwest JV at 8 p.m. (the Lady T-Birds play Arizona Western College at 5 p.m. – check out the rest of the the T-Birds' and Lady T-Birds' schedule on their pages at
  For NMJC, both teams are looking to get over tough near postseason misses in 2010-11. The T-Birds and Lady T-Birds both tied for the fourth and final spot but the NMJC men and women each lost the tiebreaker.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jal, Tatum football both receive No. 4 seeds for state playoffs

  The Jal and Tatum football teams both received the fourth seed in their respective classes when the NMAA released the Class 1A and 8-man state playoff brackets Sunday.
  The Panthers (4-5) will play No. 5 Capitan (5-4) 1 p.m. Saturday in Jal in a Class 1A state playoff quarterfinal matchup while Tatum (7-3) will play No. 5 Logan (5-5) in Tatum on a date yet to be determined (will either by Friday night or Saturday afternoon) in an 8-man state playoff quarterfinal game.
  Here is a link to the brackets: NMAA State Football Brackets
  Jal and Capitan haven't played this season while Tatum defeated Logan 40-16 in the second week of the season.
  Read more about this in Tuesday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Eunice, Seminole, Jal cap regular seasons on solid note

News-Sun Photo
Eunice's Junior Caraza speeds down the field.
  A trio of area teams finished off their regular-season schedule Friday on a solid note as Eunice and Seminole capped stellar regular seasons with easy victories and Jal showed it can play with the big boys in Class 1A in a loss.
  Eunice capped its first perfect regular season since 1958 with a convincing 44-14 win over Dexter. The Cardinals led 30-0 at the half and cruised from there. It's the way championship-caliber teams win – come out, play hard and assert dominance from the opening whistle. Eunice's offense is now averaging 49 points a game this season while the defense has improved – allowing just 9.3 points per game in its last three contests.
  Eunice has a week off then finds out its seed for the Class 2A state playoffs on Nov. 5 (which will likely be the No. 1 seed).
  Seminole also capped its season with a convincing victory, a 52-6 beatdown of Fort Stockton at Wig Wam Stadium.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Friday means for Lea County football teams (and Seminole)

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
A Seminole player runs on the field against Andrews.
  In the second-to-last games for Hobbs and Lovington and the last game of the regular season for Eunice, Jal, Tatum and Seminole, there is plenty of meaning to tonight's football action.
  Hobbs: The Eagles need a win Friday at home against Clovis and next week against Carlsbad to claim their first outright district title since 1974 or their postseason chances are probably squashed. A loss will drop Hobbs to 2-7, and even if the Eagles beat Carlsbad the following week, it will be tough to put the Eagles in. Though if Hobbs doesn't get in if it loses to Clovis then beats Carlsbad, that would mean Carlsbad (which is a top 10 team in the state) can't get in because Hobbs would have finished above the Cavemen in the district standings and a team can't make the playoffs if a team above it in the district standings doesn't make it. Got that? It's going to be an uphill battle at Watson on Friday for Hobbs as Clovis is big, strong, fast and has defeated the Eagles 10 straight times.
  Lovington: A win tonight over Ruidoso and the Wildcats are district champs and likely get the top seed in the Class 3A playoffs. Like I said in my last blog, it's been amazing the way this team has changed its image from an offensive juggernaut to a defensive steel curtain in just a season. With Lovington's QB David Robles getting more comfortable, the Wildcats are just going to be tougher and tougher to beat as they improve offensively.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lea County football teams' Week 9 state playoff projections

News-Sun Photo
Lovington's Justin Bromley
  With just two weeks left until the end of the New Mexico prep football season (one for Class 2A and below), it's time to see where the football teams from Lea County will likely be seeded for the state playoffs – if at all.
  Record: 2-6 (0-0 district)
  Projection: Missing the cut in 5A (12 teams make playoffs)
  Outlook: The Eagles are in trouble unless they can win their two district games against Clovis (home this Friday) and Carlsbad (on the road next Friday) to claim their first outright district title since 1974 (Hobbs last shared the district title in 1982). Losses to Alamogordo and Lovington have squashed Hobbs' chances at an at-large berth. While anything is possible, Hobbs hasn't put together a strong game for four quarters all season and it's going to have to in each of the next two games if it wants to beat Clovis and Carlsbad.
  Record: 5-3 (1-0 district)
  Projection: Top seed in Class 3A (12 teams make playoffs)
  Outlook: Despite losing so much talent from a season ago, the Lovington football team just keeps on rolling behind defense and key special teams plays. Spanking Portales 37-7 in their district opener gives the top-ranked Wildcats a leg up on the top seed if they can take care of business Friday against Ruidoso. If Lovington wins there, they'll be the top seed no matter what happens in the final week of the season against Class 4A top-ranked Goddard. The two-time defending champ Wildcats have the look of a team that can possibly bring home its third straight title despite most people not being able to name one person on the team.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Special moment for Eunice student, Cardinals highlights

  It was senior night for the top-ranked Eunice football team last Friday and the Cardinals thumped NMMI 48-8.
  While the seniors who've helped the Cardinals to a perfect 8-0 start were honored, Eunice gave a student who would never get to sprint through the tunnel, through the smoke and down the victory line with pads and a Cardinals helmet on a chance to have that feeling.
  Michael Lanvost, a Eunice junior and dedicated supporter of his Cardinals, was helped out the tunnel by the Eunice captains and Eunice special education teacher Anita Owings down the victory line. While I wasn't at the game, just looking at the photos (which are in the opening minute of the video I've attached) it's hard not to get goose bumps and feel your heart swell as Michael beams from ear to ear as he walks through the tunnel and down the victory line in front of the Eunice faithful at Cardinal Stadium this warm October evening.
  Sometimes we all can lose perspective when it comes to our sports. This gesture by Eunice to one of its students reminds all of us just reaching out and doing something like this can make a memory forever for someone and their family – much more than any victory or defeat can.
  I applaud you, Eunice. Well played.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hobbs boys, girls soccer seeded for state tournament

  While the Hobbs boys soccer team already had clinched a spot by winning district and the Hobbs girls had to wait to see if it was in, both the Eagles and the Lady Eagles were seeded in their respective Class 5A state tournaments when the NMAA released the brackets today.
  The District 4-5A champion Eagles were seeded No. 8 and will host Rio Rancho (likely Saturday) at Watson Stadium in the first round. The winner will face top-seeded Eldorado on Nov. 3.
  Here is a link to the Class 5A boys state tournament bracket: Class 5A Bracket
  As for the Lady Eagles, they had to patiently wait for the seedings to be released as Hobbs took second in the district to Carlsbad (who got a No. 6 seed and will host No. 11 Mayfield). After the wait, Hobbs got the No. 9 seed and will travel to play No. 8 Cibola (again, likely Saturday) in Albuquerque. The winner of this game will then face No. 1 Sandia.
  Here is a link to the girls state tournament brackets: NMAA State Girls Tournament Bracket
  Read more in Tuesday's sports section of the News-Sun on reaction from each coach on their state seeding.

Quick hits from Week 9 of prep football in Lea County and beyond

Brad Cox/News-Sun
Lovington's Cesar Treviso runs against Portales
on Friday in Blackwater Draw.
  Another week and more to learn about the prep football teams in the area. Here are some quick thoughts.
  – Lovington made a HUGE statement Friday. Pounding Portales 37-7 in Blackwater Draw told the rest of Class 3A that the two-time defending state champion and top-ranked Wildcats are for real.
  What I really enjoy about this team is it has been a complete makeover from the last two teams that won state titles. The Wildcats aren't going to put up 60-plus points like the team's guided by quarterback Jacob Jameson over the last few seasons. This team is going to win with defense. It says a lot about the coaching staff in Lovington for them to be able to adjust to their team's identity and personnel. A win this week against Ruidoso at home and the Wildcats once again will be district champs and will likely be a top seed in the Class 3A state playoffs.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seminole football: The pieces for something special in West Texas

  As I stopped to grab a pop (or soda or Coke or whatever it's called out here) at a Seminole market before heading back to Hobbs after doing interviews following the Seminole football team's practice Thursday, two gentlemen started chatting about the team's game in Andrews on Friday as I waited in line.
  "Should be a good one tomorrow night," the older of the two men said.
  "Yep, we have some really good players at the varsity level. I really like that Burtch too," the other man said speaking about Seminole head coach Chris Burtch.
  "Me too," the older gentlemen said before I paid and left and stopped eavesdropping on the conversation.
  Spending an hour watching Seminole practice Thursday, I can see why those gentlemen like this team, the coaching staff and why the Indians are 7-1 with a chance to clinch a playoff berth tonight at the Mustang Bowl in Andrews.
  As is usual for most teams the day before a game, Seminole, which pounded a Monahans team last week 41-7 ranked in the Class 3A top 10 in one Texas high school publication, practiced with no pads but went through the hour workout with precision in the Indians' indoor facility. After spending time on defense, the real show began as the Indians went through their spread offense.
  I don't think Seminole, which is receiving votes in the AP Texas High School Class 3A poll, huddled or really stopped once as it went through a myriad of formations and passing plays. Quarterback Jacob Burtch (just a junior, see video highlights of his sophomore season) slung the ball around with precision to a slew of receivers, including the game-breaking Jarod Adams (who happens to be the cousin of former Hobbs running back P.J. Smith. I attached his highlight video from a year ago as well).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eagles, Lady Eagles soccer hold destiny in hands; need wins tonight

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs' Dustin Wright takes a shot against Clovis on Oct. 8
  Destiny for a district title and an automatic state tournament berth still sits in the hands of the Hobbs boys and girls soccer teams as they both take on Carlsbad at 6 p.m. tonight (the Eagles play at home at Watson Stadium while the Lady Eagles travel to Carlsbad)
  While the Eagles and Lady Eagles are both 1-1 in district and trail their 3-0 competition (for the boys it's Clovis, for the girls it's Carlsbad), both teams would win their respective district titles if they win their final two games thanks to the tiebreaker rules.
  For the Hobbs boys, beating Carlsbad tonight and Clovis on Saturday would tie Clovis at 3-1 atop the district standings. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head and Hobbs and Clovis split so it would have to go to the next tiebreaker.
  The next tiebreaker would be head-to-head goal differential. Clovis beat Hobbs 3-2 on Oct. 8 and currently holds a +1 in differential. If Hobbs beats Clovis by at least two goals Saturday (taking into account it beat Carlsbad tonight) then the Eagles would be district champs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Houston, Highland show Hobbs football heading in right direction

  Through call ins and word of mouth, I kept hearing a buzz about the two Hobbs eighth-grade football teams – Houston and Highland – doing well.
  Houston I know was off to a 5-1 start with its only loss being a close defeat to Artesia and Highland wasn't far behind.
Photos by Brad Cox/Hobbs News-Sun
  Trust me, I'm not one of those who thinks if a program does well at the junior high, freshman and junior varsity level it translates into instant success at the varsity level. That isn't necessarily the case because of numerous variables, ranging from kids not playing anymore to the varsity level being the biggest leap of all for prep student-athletes. Lets remember, these are just eighth graders. At the same time, experiencing success breeds a winning attitude – important for football programs.
  Since I'd heard so much about the teams, I decided to go check out the two playing each other Thursday evening in front of a full moon at Watson Stadium.
  I didn't have a notepad, recorder or anything (though News-Sun sportswriter Brad Cox was nice enough to shoot photos). I just wanted to enjoy the game and take it in (something I usually only get to do at my daughter's athletic events). Sometimes when trying to take notes, play-by-play, stats and photos you often miss little things in games.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eunice's Almager leading News-Sun Offensive P.O.Y. race

  Well known in baseball circles, Eunice quarterback Tyler Almager has exploded onto the football scene in 2011 with an impressive first six games of the season and has emerged as a front runner for the 2011 News-Sun Lea County Offensive Player of the Year award in football.
  Almager, the 2011 News-Sun Lea County Baseball Player of the Year, is 85-for-147 for 1,914 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading the top-ranked Class 2A Cardinals to a 6-0 start. Almager is also the team's leading rusher with 901 yards and 14 touchdowns on 89 carries (10.1 yards per carry).
  Add a kickoff return for a touchdown and Almager has accounted for 38 touchdowns this season – an average of 6.3 per game.
  Almager is averaging an eye-popping 469.2 yards of offense per game (319.0 passing, 150.2 rushing) thanks to a solid offensive line and an athletic group of skill position players around him.
  For those who haven't seen Almager play, watch the video above. Almager reminds me some of the winner of the offensive player of the year award the last three seasons – Lovington's Jacob Jameson. While Almager's competition isn't quite what Jameson faced (Goddard, Artesia, Hobbs, Andrews, etc.), there are a lot of similarities between the two – mainly their ability to use both their legs and their arm. 
  Jameson finished last season with 3,624 yards and 60 touchdowns passing while rushing for 1,267 yards and 17 more scores. Almager is on pace for similar of numbers.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quick thoughts from Lovington's triple OT win over Hobbs

Darrell Patterson/Hobbs News-Sun
A pair of Lovington players celebrate during the 
Wildcats' win over Hobbs on Friday in Hobbs.
  For an in-county game that went three overtimes, Lovington's 31-28 win over Hobbs was far from pleasing to the eye.
  There was 428 yards of offense combined (Hobbs 238, Lovington 190) as both teams showed they have flaws moving the ball.
  Hobbs was painfully one dimensional. With a sophomore quarterback making his first varsity start in Kolin Zembas (who looked pretty good all things considered), it was apparent Hobbs was going to keep the ball on the ground – nothing new for a Bruce Dollar coached team. But with the Eagles' only backfield threat being Aderiole Moore, the Wildcat defense loaded the box (sometimes with nine players) and started just rushing toward the senior running back as soon as the ball was snapped. In the second half Moore usually had a hand or two on him in the backfield before he could get moving, leading to 20 carries for just 49 yards in the second half after carving up Lovington for 100 yards on 12 carries in the first half.
  While the Hobbs offense stalled after two first-quarter touchdowns, it didn't turn the ball over until its last play on offense in triple overtime – a big improvement after 21 turnovers in the first six games.
  But key miscues cost Hobbs this game – touching a punt that Lovington recovered in the first quarter that led to a Wildcat field goal, a Lovington punt that was allowed to bounce and roll nearly 25 yards to the Hobbs 1 (leading to a safety) and missed tackles on David Robles' punt return for a touchdown. These are three plays that equal 11 of Lovington's 14 points in regulation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Eagles, Wildcats set for Battle of Highway 18

Kimberly Ryan/Hobbs News-Sun
Hobbs' Aderiole Moore rushes against 
Alamogordo at Watson Stadium.
  As I sit down to write this less than 24 hours away from Hobbs and Lovington squaring off at Watson Stadium, I'm really not sure what to make of this contest.
  Heck, I don't even know what to call this game. I feel like it should have a name. I just made up Battle of Highway 18 ... which, to be honest, doesn't sound that great (maybe it does). Someone really does need to come up with a name. Maybe call it "The Roughneck Rumble" with the trophy being an oil derrick. I don't know, it just needs something.
  Anyway, back to the game. This game is a bit puzzling because I really don't know what to expect of Hobbs tonight. The Eagles are coming off a terribly disappointing 50-21 loss to Alamogordo – a team it was ahead of 14-3 and could've beat because there is no way the Tigers were 29 points better than the Eagles. Frustration boiled over and Hobbs, which may or may not be at full strength tonight, needs a win against Lovington to bounce back.
  Look for Hobbs to pound the ball on the ground with Aderiole Moore, who looked very good against Alamogordo – rushing for 169 yards and a score on 21 carries. That carries total may go above 30 tonight.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Eunice's Caraza a college talent waiting to be seized

  If you've never seen Eunice's Junior Caraza play football, it's a sight to be seen. In fact watch the video below.
  Listed at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Caraza is a wrecking ball on the gridiron – destroying nearly anything in his path as you saw on the video. He's a force as a defensive back, laying huge hits on opposing players, and is an explosive weapon at wide receiver and running back for the Cardinals.
  A great pure athlete, Caraza has won numerous state track championships, helped Eunice baseball to a state title in 2010 and a runner-up finish last season and was also the basketball team's leading scorer from a year ago.
  But it's the football field where he really shines with last week being arguably the best all-around game by a player in Lea County this season.
  During Eunice's 60-30 win over Tucumcari, Caraza had five receptions for 195 yards and two scores, ran the ball three times for 105 yards and made 12 tackles (one for a loss) and picked off two passes (returning one 88 yards).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hobbs boys basketball schedule released for 2011-12

Clayton Jones/News-Sun

Hobbs' Dane Pannell against Eldorado
in Albuquerque last season.
  I got my hands on a copy of the Hobbs boys basketball schedule today and Eagle fans better take advantage of every home game as the Eagles – with first-year coach Mike Smith at the helm – will be on the road for 14 of their 26 games, unusual for a team that usually plays over half its games at Tasker Arena.
  The full schedule is at the bottom of this blog and is also available in Tuesday's sports section of the News-Sun (page 10) but I'll highlight some games of interest.
  — Nov. 15 @ Midland Lee: Eagles' season opener. I bet a few fans travel the relatively short drive to Midland to watch Smith's first game as head coach of Hobbs.
  — Nov. 29 vs. Midland High: Hobbs' home opener and first game for Smith at Tasker Arena as head coach. Probably will be a wild night.
  — Dec. 1-3 @ El Paso Canutillo Tournament: I'm not sure when Hobbs last played in a tournament not named the Hobbs Holiday Tournament or the state tournament, but this should be a good warm up for the Holiday Tournament.
  — Dec. 17 vs. OƱate: First New Mexico opponent (unless the Eagles play a New Mexico team at the Canutillo Tournament) and a chance to avenge two losses last season to the 2011 Class 5A state champs.
  — Dec. 28-30 Hobbs Holiday Tournament: Do I have to say anything more? Should be a blast as always. If you haven't been to this tournament, make a point to. While I'm not sure about all the teams attending, I was told Volcano Vista (who should be one of the better teams in Albuquerque) will be in attendance.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quick hits from Week 6 in Lea County football

Kimberly Ryan/Hobbs News-Sun
Lovington quarterback David Robles rushes against
West Las Vegas on Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
  Week 6 of the prep football season is in the books and teams from Lea County either kept rolling, got back on track or had the wheels come off Friday evening.
  — At Watson Stadium at the game I was at, Hobbs just fell apart in the second half against Alamogordo in an important matchup for both. It started some in the second quarter after the Eagles built a 14-3 lead when a Hobbs punt was blocked, leading to a quick score and igniting a 33-point run for the Tigers.
  Hobbs trailed 17-14 heading into the third quarter when Alamogordo took advantage of five Eagle second-half turnovers (Hobbs finished with six in all) to put the game out of reach and eventually win 50-21.
  The Eagles' playoff chances probably rest on beating one (and most likely both) of their district opponents. The offense did look better with the return of Aderiole Moore (he finished with 169 yards on the ground) but Hobbs will need more than just him to step up if it wants to beat Lovington this week.
  Read more of my thoughts on Hobbs' loss to Alamogordo and where the Eagles are heading in my column in Sunday's sports section of the News-Sun.
  — Lovington got back on track with a much-needed victory over West Las Vegas 44-0 Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
  The Wildcats had lost their last two games, both Texas opponents, and for a team that is still trying to find its rhythm after losing so much from last season's state championship team, a win like Friday's goes a long way in building the confidence of the players – particularly the offense. Hobbs will be a good test for Lovington this week and it should be a battle.
  — In a game that featured first-year Eunice head coach Daniel Hutchins facing his former team Tucumcari, the Class 2A second-ranked Cardinals pounced on the fifth-ranked Rattlers for 30 first-quarter points on their way to a 60-30 win.
  Eunice continues to rack up big numbers on offense, averaging 50.5 points per game, and is 6-0 for the first time since its 2000 state championship team. Eunice travels to play Cloudcroft next week, looking to start 7-0 for the first time since 1958 when the Cardinals finished the season 10-0 and won the state title.