Monday, September 3, 2012

Loss not a step backward for Hobbs

Clayton Jones/News-Sun
Hobbs' Brayden Price throws a pass against Gadsden
on Friday in Anthony, N.M. Price threw for 390 yards.
  Following Hobbs’ 34-33 loss to Gadsden on Friday in Anthony, N.M., I talked with first-year Gadsden coach Roy Gerela.
  Gerela, a New Mexico State grad, was a three-time Super Bowl winning kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. He’s been to the top of the mountain at the highest level.
  But Gerela, sporting a Super Bowl ring on his left hand (I couldn’t make out which one) had a glowing presence and perma-smile on his face as if he’d just won No. 4.
  Remember, Gadsden is a program that had lost 11 games in a row and 18 of its last 20 before hiring Gerela.
  “This game could’ve gone either way,” Gerela said. “Hobbs and us are in the same boat. (Hobbs coach) Charles (Gleghorn) is trying to turn things around just like we are here. There hasn’t been a lot of success at either place.”
  Then he went on and used a phrase many of us are familiar with about turning something into chicken salad – but he’s right on the money with his thoughts.
  While Gadsden was 2-18 in its last 20 games, Hobbs hasn’t been much better at 3-14 in its last 17 contests heading into Friday.
  Though Gadsden walked away with the win and Hobbs stares at an 0-1 start with Artesia coming to town next Friday – there was a bigger picture to this game.
  It was about the possible growth and rebirth of a pair of programs that have seen a lot of down days over the years.
  Sure, Hobbs had beaten Gadsden the past two seasons – but the Gadsden team the Eagles faced Friday was a far cry from the teams Hobbs could just push around the last two years.
  This loss was not a step backward for Hobbs.
  Those who watched last season’s team at any point in the year and were at Gadsden High on Friday saw the growth in this program.
  Offensively it was obvious.
  The Eagles averaged 194.8 yards and 14.6 points per game last season and were just plain bad offensively.
  Hobbs in Friday’s loss racked up 545 yards – tied for the third most in the program’s history in a single game.
  Brayden Price threw for 390 yards, the second most in school history and would’ve broken Alberto Caballero’s record of 398 set against Alamogordo in 2007 if not for some dropped passes. His four touchdown passes are tied for second in a single game in school history as well.
  Price showed good mobility as well, rushing for 52 yards while escaping several possible sacks and making plays when it appeared nothing was there.
  There are spots to improve still (accuracy, quicker decision making at times) but overall the Eagles have a good base to build upon with Price along with weapons like Donavon Fierro (huge game on both sides of the ball with 187 total yards and two scores along with an interception and fumble recovery), Steven Olivas (three touchdowns and 170 yards receiving), Brandon Amaya, Kolin Zembas and others.
  Despite giving up 34 points and 457 yards of offense, the Hobbs defense did do a good job of making sure Gadsden earned their points and limited the big play – something the Eagles didn’t do a season ago. The Panthers had just two plays over 21 yards in the game – with just one going for a score.
  But there are areas to improve.
  Turnovers killed Hobbs. Two of the Hobbs’ three giveaways turned into Gadsden touchdowns. Add a botched fake punt (that I’m not sure Gleghorn actually called for) and there are four big mistakes that gave the Panthers momentum.
  Defensively, Hobbs was not very good in the first half – allowing Gadsden to gain 286 yards and score three times. It got better in the second half, giving up 171 yards in the final two quarters and getting key stops (including a turnover) when the Eagles needed it.
  Did I mention nobody punted in this game? How about 1,005 total yards in combined offense by both teams? Yeah, a little wild.
  Anyway, penalties also hurt Hobbs. The Eagles were flagged 12 times for 110 yards – some of the 15-yard unsportsmanlike variety that could be avoided. Gadsden wasn’t much better with 13 penalties for 99 yards.
  Despite the loss, the Eagles did take a step in the right direction. Energy was up, no sulking on the sidelines even when they got down two scores and the team overall had a better look and vibe.
  As I’ve mentioned before, success can’t be measured with wins for a football program that has one playoff victory in the last 30 years, hasn’t won an outright district title in 38 years or a state title in 40 years.
  The Eagles made progress. Sure, the loss stinks for Hobbs, but what Gleghorn and his staff have cooking at Hobbs is going to work.
  Patience is the key – for all of us.

  This column appeared in Sunday's sports section of the Hobbs News-Sun. To read more coverage of your favorite Lea County teams, subscribe to the News-Sun's print or online edition by calling 575-393-2123.