Monday, September 10, 2012

Patience needed with Hobbs football

Kimberly Ryan/News-Sun
Hobbs' Lucas Medrano runs with the ball after an
interception during the Eagles' loss to Artesia.
  A large crowd at New Mexico’s largest high school football venue was on hand Friday at Hobbs’ Watson Stadium to witness for the first time with their own eyes first-year coach Charles Gleghorn’s version of the Eagles as they took on Class 4A power Artesia.
  However for the supporters of the black and gold, it was the same result they’ve experienced for much of the last 30 years as the Bulldogs pounded the Eagles 57-13.
  Turnovers along with an inability to slow down Artesia’s explosive offense and control the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball were just some of the issues Hobbs suffered from against a talented Bulldog squad as the Eagles moved to 0-2 on the season and suffered its ninth consecutive loss.
  While I can’t imagine the frustration of the fans that have watched the Hobbs football program go 99-209 and win just one playoff game since 1982, those fans need only look to the opposing sideline from Friday’s loss to feel a sense of encouragement because this Hobbs program has a different vibe about it with Gleghorn at the helm.
  Legendary Artesia coach Cooper Henderson needs a third hand for all his state title rings (13 – 12 with Artesia) and sits fourth on the all-time coaching wins list in New Mexico history with an overall record of 259-91-1.
  But it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops in the land of orange for Henderson.
  After a five-year stint at Ruidoso from 1984-88 where he won a state title in 1985 and had state runner-up finishes in 1986 and 1988, he was hired at Artesia prior to the 1989 season.
  Sure, Artesia had won 15 state titles prior to Henderson’s arrival but the Bulldogs were in a slight bit of disarray.
  T.W. Harvey in his fourth and final season in 1987 led Artesia to state title No. 15. Barry Coffman was hired to coach the team in 1988, but went 5-5 and stepped down after the season and the Bulldogs were suddenly left searching for their third coach in as many seasons.
  Henderson was hired in 1989, but the Bulldogs went 3-7 – the fewest wins in 16 years and the second fewest still in the program’s history since 1957.
  “My first year in Artesia wasn’t all that,” Henderson said. “... It took us awhile to get our program growing.”
  Artesia went 9-4 in Henderson’s second season in 1990, and in 1991 the Bulldogs went 8-5 and lost to Goddard in the Class 3A state championship game.
  The next season Artesia broke through, going 10-3 and beating Raton 24-0 for the Class 3A state championship.
  Now Henderson sits with 12 state championships over the last 20 seasons and is 216-72 as Artesia coach.
  Following his 216th win with Artesia in Hobbs on Friday, Henderson said he saw similarities with where Hobbs is now and where he was with Artesia in his first season in 1989.
  “It’s about starting something new and I think they do things really well,” Henderson said of Gleghorn’s Hobbs squad and his coaching staff. “... Coach Gleghorn knows what he is doing. They do things extremely well as far as scheme. I think that it will just take some time and I hope the people (in Hobbs) give him time and are patient. I think they will because he’s been positive with all parts of the program.”
  That’s the significant difference I see with Gleghorn – the ability to stay positive and keep his players believing in themselves and the system but still aware his team has faults and they need to be worked on.
  Following the 57-13 loss to Artesia, I headed down to talk with him about the game and I wondered if his frustration would show through. Would he be upset about all the mistakes?
  Gleghorn was calm and calculated.
  As I quoted him in my story in Saturday’s News-Sun, Gleghorn admitted the program still has a long way to go to be highly successful but there were still positives from Friday’s loss and the rebuilding process is still on track.
  It’s easy to dismiss it as coach speak, especially for Hobbs fans who feel like they’ve heard it all before over the years, but Gleghorn has the resume to back it up.
  Gleghorn took a struggling Hatch Valley and turned it into a three-time state champion in a seven-year span. In just one season in 2008, he guided Kirtland Central to a winning season before starting the football program from scratch at Mesilla Valley Christian in 2009 and leading them to a state title in 2011.
  Gleghorn’s scheme of a no-huddle, pass-heavy offense is player friendly and the athletes in Hobbs should be – and currently are – excited to play in it. Gleghorn and his staff are working hard to get the athletes in the weight room as overall strength as a team is large part of the struggles Hobbs has right now.
  More importantly, the players enjoy playing for Gleghorn and his coaching staff and they have the athletes’ best interest in mind as well.
  “We’ve been able to build a relationship with these kids since we got here in January,” Gleghorn said. “They trust me and my coaching staff and that will go a long way to turning things around.”
  The process of the turnaround can be frustrating. It’s like remodeling a house –  sometimes things look worse before they get better.
  Henderson is right – patience will be key. Hobbs has great numbers coming up in its freshman (on a side note, the freshman team beat Clovis on Thursday) and eighth-grade classes and those will only grow with the system Gleghorn has in place.
  This season isn’t a loss yet either. Hobbs needs to continue to grow in 2012 and everyone (including myself) needs to keep in mind this team is in the first year of learning a system completely the opposite of what the Eagles ran the last few years.
  With a winnable contest against Roswell High on the road this week, the Eagles can snag some momentum for what could be a very important matchup against fellow Class 5A team Oñate at home the week after.

  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.