Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eagles win home opener against Midland High, foul issues continue

Brad Cox/News-Sun
Hobbs' Terrell Wright goes for a steal against Midland
High during the Eagles' win Tuesday at Tasker Arena.
  On what was likely a nerve-racking day for Hobbs players and first-year coach Mike Smith, the Eagles won their home opener over Midland High 83-62 Tuesday in Smith's first game as head coach at Tasker Arena to move Hobbs to 2-0 on the young season.
  As many know, Tasker Arena is far from just any high school gym. Usually close to capacity each home game with plenty of traditions (baseline benches, Taskervitch Band, the Hobbs Mascots, etc.) and 16 state title banners hanging above the court to remind every opponent what they are walking into, Tasker Arena is one of the best places to watch high school basketball.
  With probably 2,500 fans in the stands Tuesday eager to see Hobbs' return to the full-court pressing style popularized by Ralph Tasker himself, I'm sure even the returning players had nerves in this first game. It didn't show for long as the Eagles built a 38-23 lead at the half thanks to a late run in the second quarter that caused Midland High players to gasp for air on the court as they were worn down by the never-ending pressure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Defense is name of the game for 2011-12 Lady Eagle basketball

  We can talk all day about the interior and perimeter options the Hobbs girls basketball team has, but when it comes down to it, the Lady Eagles are going to be about defense this season – which showed in its home opening 61-49 win over Odessa Permian on Monday at Tasker Arena.
  Hobbs coach Johnny Casaus figured out his team wasn't going to be able to run with the athletic Lady Panthers as Hobbs held a slim 33-31 lead heading into the half. The up-tempo pace favored Permian, despite the deficit, as Hobbs had 18 first-half turnovers and struggled at times to even move the ball up court.
  In the second half Hobbs went to a half-court defense and it put cement in Permian's sneakers. At one point Hobbs held the Lady Panthers over 8 minutes without a point and over 12 minutes without a field goal in the second half while holding Permian to 18 second-half points.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It just wasn't the Cardinals' day

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Eunice's Tyler Almager runs the ball during the 2A state title game Saturday.
  Just as the players were about to shake hands at midfield after Eunice’s gut-wrenching 21-14 loss to defending champion Santa Rosa in the Class 2A state championship game, the Santa Rosa public address announcer got the crowd to start chanting, “Back-to-back! Back-to-back!”
  One Eunice player – already visibly frustrated – turned with his arms flexed and down to his side yelled, “This makes me so mad!”
  I don’t think it was so much the public address announcer’s actions or the chant that had this Eunice player upset as much as knowing the best team in Class 2A wasn’t walking with the blue championship trophy.

Seminole's season one to remember despite tough finish

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Seminole's Jacob Burtch runs in for a touchdown Friday in San Angelo.
  The Seminole football team was huddled up on the turf at San Angelo Stadium on a drizzly Friday night with friends and family surrounding them. Tears were being shed as senior players and coaches addressed the team one last time during the 2011 season.
  The Indians' season had come to a close just minutes earlier when Seminole lost to undefeated Alvarado 42-7. It was a tough and shocking way for Seminole to be bounced from the playoffs, after all Seminole is the one that had put those kind of beatings on teams for the better part of two-plus months since getting starting quarterback Jacob Burtch back from a shoulder injury early in the season.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Predictions almost on point through second-to-last week of playoffs

Darrell Patterson/Hobbs News-Sun
A Eunice player makes a catching during the Cardinals' semifinal win Friday.
  I hope I don't hurt myself patting myself on the back, but in the second-to-last week of the football playoffs (except for 2A, which the championship is this week) I've correctly picked 12 of the 14 teams remaining in the New Mexico playoffs (see predictions here).
  Don't worry, I don't plan on praising myself too much as the two teams I missed was in the classification I covered this season – Class 5A.
  So lets see what is on tap for this week.
No. 1 Eunice @ No. 3 Santa Rosa, 1:30 p.m. Saturday
  Outlook: I predicted Eunice to go all the way, and I'm not wavering from that pick, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the last two weeks. The Eunice offense that's torched everyone on the season hasn't looked the same in the playoffs (maybe except for the second half against No. 8 Tucumcari). Combine it with Santa Rosa's ground-pounding attack and it could be a recipe for trouble. Nonetheless, I'm sticking with the Cardinals because they do have the best quarterback at the small-school level in Tyler Almager, maybe the best wide receiver and defensive player at the small-school level in Junior Caraza, plenty of weapons around them and the experience of finding ways to win ballgames. Eunice wins in a thriller.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quick hits: Lovington, Eunice, Seminole advance; Lady Eagles win

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Lovington defensive back Nathan Lozoya tips a pass away as teammate
Justin Kim also defends during the Wildcats' win Saturday.
  As I lick my wounds after my Oregon Ducks fell to USC on a kick wide left Saturday night, the same can't be said for fans of teams around the Hobbs News-Sun's coverage area this week.
  In state playoff football action, Eunice advanced to the Class 2A championship game with a thrilling come-from-behind win, Lovington advanced to the Class 3A semifinals with a convincing victory and Seminole moved to the Texas Class 3A Division I quarterfinals after winning its region by thumping Lubbock Cooper.
  Add on to it the Hobbs boys and girls basketball teams winning their season openers and there wasn't much to be upset about in the area.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So far, somewhat so good on predictions; N.M. playoffs continue

  Before I totaled up and checked out how I did on my predictions of the New Mexico state football playoffs, I thought I may have butchered my picks on the opening weekend. I knew my Carlsbad pick was blown when No. 9 La Cueva beat the No. 8 Cavemen, 17-7, in Class 5A.
  But once I did all the math, so far so good for me as 13 of the 16 teams I thought would move on did with losses by Carlsbad, Class 3A No. 9 Ruidoso (to No. 8 Albuquerque Academy) and my upset pick of Class 4A No. 11 St. Pius X (it lost to Farmington, the fifth seed).
  To refresh you on my pre-playoff predictions, read here.
  As for games to keep an eye on for this weekend, I'll go classification by classification.
8-Man/Class 1A
  First, two champions will be crowned this weekend when Melrose (who edged past Tatum in overtime) takes on Gateway Christian on Saturday in Roswell for the 8-man title and Fort Sumner (who slid past Jal) takes on Mesilla Valley Christian on Saturday at Gadsden High School in Anthony, N.M., for the 1A title. The Fort Sumner/Mesilla Valley game should be entertaining with a contrast of styles with Fort Sumner's ground-pounding attack taking on Mesilla Valley's let-it-fly approach.

Hobbs' Smith gets win in first game as coach, Eagles have room to grow

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs coach Mike Smith picked up his first win
Tuesday against Midland Lee in Midland.
  It was far from pretty, but Hobbs first-year coach Mike Smith will take it knowing his Eagles have a long way to go still.
  The Eagles won 82-69 against Midland Lee Tuesday night at Midland Lee High School in their season opener despite 31 turnovers, foul issues and an inability to keep the Rebels off the glass.
  Smith – a Hobbs native – called it an ugly win after the game and added there are several things to correct between now and the Eagles' next game – their home opener Nov. 29 against Midland High.
  Hobbs struggled to take care of the ball against an athletic Lee squad that was also pressing for most of the game. Luckily for Hobbs, the Eagles' press forced the Rebels into 29 turnovers of their own.
  The big difference in the game was free-throw shooting as Hobbs went 30-for-39 from the charity stripe while Lee was 10-for-25.
  The Eagles also got themselves into foul trouble. Point guard Austin Montoya picked up four first-half fouls while Aaron Ibarra and Dane Pannell each had three at the break – three players that are expected to be Hobbs' top scorers this season. The score was tied at 37 and it appeared things may get rough for Hobbs.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Strengths, weaknesses shown at Hobbs scrimmage Saturday

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs' Dane Pannell drives toward the basket 
during a scrimmage Saturday at Tasker Arena.
  The Hobbs boys basketball program couldn't have asked for two better programs to come to Tasker Arena and scrimmage the Eagles on Saturday.
  First there was Odessa Permian. The Panthers were long, athletic and ready to run (though it only scrimmaged with six players).
  Then there was El Paso Montwood. The Rams weren't very impressive athletically but were extremely disciplined and played at a methodical pace.
  The two extremes provided Hobbs a chance to see its own strengths and weaknesses as it heads into its season opener Tuesday at Midland Lee. Scores don't really matter in scrimmages. It's all about finding strengths, weaknesses, good rotations and so on.
  Against Odessa Permian it was quickly made apparent the Eagles are going to be tough to run up and down the court with. Not only did Hobbs easily outscore Permian, the Eagles forced the Panthers into numerous turnovers and were a nightmare for them – despite Permian having better athletes and more height. Hobbs' quickness and execution on the full-court press just overwhelmed Permian.

Quick hits: Tatum volleyball title, state playoff football

Kimberly Ryan/News-Sun
Eunice's Juan Zamora stretches out to try and make a catch Friday.
  I apologize for the delay in writing my latest blog. It was a busy weekend and trying to get everything stuffed in the newspaper was time consuming – and for good reason.
  A lot happened this weekend in Lea County athletics.
  – To start things off, I have to congratulate the Tatum volleyball team for winning its third straight Class 1A state volleyball title. The Lady Coyotes have proven throughout the season they're the best team in the classification (and probably in 2A and 3A as well) and showed it at state tournament time.
  Behind the hitting of Devanne Sours (still a junior) and Monica Ramirez, the presence at the net of Angela Rebolledo and the quick defensive play of twins Jessica and Sandy Ramirez, Karina Cardenas and Maria Mendoza – Tatum defeated Melrose in the state championship match in four games.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

High-flying, big-play Eunice football a must watch for this Friday night

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Eunice's Avi Sanchez makes a catch during
Wednesday's practice in Eunice.
  Eunice's Tyler Almager put every ounce on the throw – a high, arcing spiral at least 60 yards down field.
  Avi Sanchez leaped high into the air for the ball, snagging it with both hands, corralling it into his stomach as he flopped onto his back with the pigskin still firmly in his grasp (see photo). The leaping catch led to the team letting out a loud cheer and a smile to Sanchez as he ran back to his teammates.
  It was just part of a crisp practice Wednesday for the top-seeded and undefeated Eunice football team as it prepared for its Class 2A state quarterfinal against No. 8 Tucumcari 7 p.m. Friday at Cardinal Stadium.
  I'm not going to go into the matchup between the two teams because that will be in my preview running in Friday's sports section of the Hobbs News-Sun.
  Instead, I'm going to let you know – and I'm talking to you Lea County – that Eunice will be the place to be this Friday – particularly for those football fans who haven't seen the Cardinals play this season.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dollar resigns at Hobbs

Clayton Jones/News-Sun Photo (unauthorized use prohibited without permission and credit)
Hobbs football coach Bruce Dollar resigned Tuesday morning.
  Hobbs football coach Bruce Dollar announced his resignation Tuesday morning effective immediately.
  Dollar went 10-22 in three seasons with Hobbs, leading the Eagles to their only playoff win since 1982. However, Hobbs has gone 3-14 over its last 17 games – spanning two seasons (Hobbs missed the playoffs both years).
  In short, Dollar told me either he was going to have to resign or was going to be asked to no longer coach the football program.
  Hobbs athletic director Greg Haston said the school was pleased with the early success, but feel like this is a good time to start fresh with a new coach.
  Read the complete story in Wednesday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun at (it is a pay website).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sun Sports Central Soothsaying (i.e. Playoff Predictions); Dollar situation

  Before I get to my predictions for the New Mexico prep football playoffs, I wanted to real quick address the Hobbs football coaching situation. I've was asked by some Monday if Hobbs coach Bruce Dollar is no longer the coach and that is false for the time being. I talked to Dollar as well as the Hobbs athletic department Monday and both said Dollar is still the coach.
  I wrote my thoughts about this Sunday (about midway through the post), and I'll keep everyone updated on the situation (if there is one).
  Back to my soothsaying. Man, that word is great. I didn't know what it meant until I was in college working as the sports editor at the University of Oregon's independent student newspaper, The Oregon Daily Emerald, and one of the sportswriters – a buddy we all called Dome (got to love college nicknames, we still call him this) – turned in a story with that in the headline (I had to look it up to see what it meant) and the word and I have never parted.
  Wow, I apologize for wasting your time with that nerdy journalism story. 
  Anyway, with the 2A-5A brackets released Sunday I thought I'd take a crack at predicting how this season's postseason will shake out.
No. 1 Eunice def. No. 8 Tucumcari
No. 4 Tularosa def. No. 5 Dulce 
No. 3 Santa Rosa def. No. 6 Loving
No. 2 Texico def. No. 7 Laguna-Acoma
Comments: That's right, going chalk to start my predictions. I think the top four in 2A are a cut above the rest.
No. 1 Eunice def. No. 4 Tularosa
No. 3 Santa Rosa def. No. 2 Texico
No. 1 Eunice def. No. 3 Santa Rosa
Comments: Eunice sports the best quarterback (Tyler Almager) and best all-around player (Junior Caraza) in the classification and combine it with big linemen, other solid skill position players and the thirst to put up another title on the Wall of Champions in Joe Langston Gym, I don't see the Cardinals being stopped. I know, may look like a homer pick but I do truly believe the Cardinals are the best team in 2A.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NMAA releases volleyball seeds

  The NMAA released its seeds for the state volleyball tournament Sunday with four of the five Lea County schools being selected. Pool play for all the tournaments begin Thursday in the Albuquerque-metro area.
  In Class 3A, Lovington picked up the No. 8 seed and is in Pool A with No. 1 Pojoaque and No. 9 West Las Vegas. District-foe Portales picked up the No. 3 seed while Ruidoso got the 12th seed.
  In Class 2A, Eunice snagged the No. 11 seed and will play in Pool C with No. 3 Bosque and No. 6 Clayton.
  In Class 1A, two-time defending state champion Tatum to nobody's surprise got the top seed while Jal got the No. 8 seed and both play in Pool A along with No. 9 Hagerman.
  Here is a link to view all of the brackets: NMAA State Volleyball Brackets

Not-so-quick hits from Week 11 in Lea County Football

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Jal's Saxxon Artalejo breaks free against Capitan on Saturday in Jal.
  While seedings came out for the larger schools and Hobbs got spanked, I have to start with the game I was at Saturday – Jal's 27-21 overtime win over Capitan in the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
  To back track, when two-a-days started in August I went out to Jal on the second day of workouts. There were 15 Panthers total out for football. That's it. In my mind I thought, "I don't care how good Saxxon Artalejo and Malik Anderson are, Jal may win only one or two games this season and will probably miss the playoffs."
  When the Panthers started the season 0-4, I thought my preseason thoughts were coming to fruition.
  But the funny thing about Jal was, it kept getting better and better.
  Four wins later, the Panthers went into their matchup with Class 1A powerhouse and top-ranked Fort Sumner at 4-4 heading into its last week of the season. Jal gave Fort Sumner a game, but couldn't get over the hump offensively, losing 24-8.
  Saturday the Panthers started the game against Capitan as that 0-4 team. Jal couldn't stop the Tigers' double-wing offense and couldn't move the football as Capitan took a 14-0 lead.
  But big players make big plays and Saxxon Artalejo hit Malik Anderson on a slant for that the speedy Anderson turned into a 70-yard touchdown to cut the lead in half.
  It was the start of the Panthers' resurgence as an improved defensive effort combined with quick striking drives for Jal – all four touchdown drives were three plays or less – led to Jal coming back for the win.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Eagle hoops Black & Gold Scrimmage fast-paced event

Kimberly Ryan/News-Sun
Hobbs' Aaron Ibarra goes in for a layup at the Black
and Gold Scrimmage Thursday at Tasker Arena.
  Hobbs grad and first-year Eagles coach Mike Smith said the team would return to the up-and-down, full-court pressing style of basketball and the Eagles did just that for a pair of 20-minute halves during the Black and Gold Scrimmage Thursday at Tasker Arena.
  Here are a few things I took away from the scrimmage:
  – Dane Pannell is good, very good: The 6-foot-3 junior who averaged 11.5 points per game as a sophomore (and closer to 16 points per game in the second half of the season) scored 29 points, second to Aaron Ibarra's 30 points.
  But more than that was the way he scored them (and despite getting cut just below his eye minutes into the game). Pannell hit jumpers, took his defender off the dribble, posted up and got a few putbacks. Hobbs fans are going to enjoy watching this young man evolve into one of the better players in the state (if he's not already there).
  – Aaron Ibarra is going to flourish in this style of ball: The tall, lanky Ibarra (6-foot-3 or maybe 6-foot-4) is perfectly suited for this trapping, full-court brand of basketball. His length is a nightmare for opponents and he can finish well in transition. Ibarra even showed off his range by hitting a 3-pointer in the scrimmage. He's probably going to have to rebound more than he's used to as the Eagles lack height, but Ibarra is poised to have a breakout senior season.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hobbs boys hoops hard at work; preseason schedule

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs senior Austin Montoya at practice Tuesday.
  I stepped through the doors at Tasker Arena Tuesday morning to find 20-plus athletes hustling, yelling, and screeching their sneakers across the gym floor.
  Yep, it's basketball season.
  The Hobbs boys basketball team was hard at work already as the Eagles have less than two weeks until their opener Nov. 15 at Midland Lee (at Midland College's Chap Center). The hour-and-a-half practice concentrated mostly on defense – both half and full court – with a lot of trapping.
  Talented junior Dane Pannell seems to have recovered fully after banging up his knee a little bit over the summer as he looked very good. Teaming him with senior point guard Austin Montoya and senior forward Aaron Ibarra and that is a solid three for Hobbs to build off of. Those three teamed up with Jesus Rodriguez (another point guard type) and Andrew Barrientes (a sniper from beyond the arc) during practice looked very fluid together.