While tonight’s game might not be the biggest game the Hobbs football team will play this season, the outcome will decide if the Eagles have a chance to win the district championship, something that Hobbs has not done since 1992.
“It’s been a long a time. A long time,” Hobbs coach Charles Gleghorn said of Hobbs winning a district championship. “That needs to be corrected. Last year we had a chance and that Las Cruces game was the only one that got away from us. Our kids know that and we just have to finish.”
The Eagles opponent tonight is Centennial.
For the Hawks, a win over Hobbs will seal the district championship as the Hawks have one regular season game left following tonight, a date with Gadsden.
“This is the ninth game for Centennial,” Gleghorn said. “I know coach (Aaron) Ocampo very well and I know that he back at Centennial and he is telling his kids this is their district championship game, because if they win this, they win district, because they will beat Gadsden. This is it for them. This is for all the marbles.”
Hobbs comes into the game riding a six game winning streak and have won seven straight district games, the current longest such streak in the district. Last week the Eagles played, and beat, Gadsden. Having the Panthers the week before the Hawks gave Hobbs two weeks to prepare. Those two weeks have been very beneficial.”
“The biggest thing, especially defensively, we have had more time to concentrate on watching (Centennial’s) film,” the Eagles’ coach said. “Our kids have gotten to watch it a lot more and our kids on defense actually found something on them that is really helpful.”
Everyone knows Hobbs’ strength is its offense.
The Eagles are averaging 43 points a game this year while giving up just 19 a game on defense. Twice the Eagles have held an opponent to just one touchdown. In five of Hobbs’ six wins, it has scored over 40 points.
Quarterback Michael Greenough and the receiving corps of Semaj Cotton, Jamie Rivera, Dylan Condarco, and Jackson Kinney as well as running back Isaiah Vaughn catch the bulk of the passes.
Cotton leads the receivers with 35 catches for 719 yards. Condarco (337 yards) and Rivera (243 yards) each have 23 receptions. Kinney has hauled in 17 receptions for 229 yards while Vaughn has caught 15 passes for 402 yards.
But last week, the Eagles showed they can pound the ball on the ground as well, if needed. Vaughn and the rest of those carrying the ball amassed over 400 yards on the ground. Vaughn, a junior, needs just eight yards to pass last year’s team rushing leader Tristan Kemp (799 yards) and needs 208 yards (in the remaining three regular season games) to reach 1,000 yards. Hobbs’ last 1,000-yard rusher was Jeremy Padilla (1,237) in 2015.
“Every game we have played, we have become harder to defend,” Gleghorn said. “Just because the running game has progressed and the line has gotten better. That weather game, we went primarily straight to the run and was successful with it. Our kids put up the seventh highest rushing total in the history of the school.”
The Eagles success with the ground games makes them a tougher team and harder to defend, something that will play a big role in tonight’s game.
As good as Hobbs is, the Hawks are no slouch.
Centennial is undefeated this year. The Hawks are 8-0 overall and, like Hobbs, are undefeated in district play. The Hawks aren’t scoring quite as high as Hobbs is, averaging just 31.75 points a game, but their defense is stingier. Centennial is giving up just 10.5 points a game. Twice the Hawks have shut out an opponent and two other times they have held an opponent to single digit scoring.
“We keep telling our kids that they are 8-0 and it’s not on accident. They are good,” Gleghorn said. “If they weren’t good, they wouldn’t be undefeated. … Our kids are really invested and focused on this game.”
Hobbs’ defense is the best it has been in years and to win tonight, the Eagles’ defense will need to bring its A game.
That will mean big contributions from tackle leaders Jimmy Harrison (72 tackles) and Jacob Burkett (62). The Eagles will also need Burkett (who has 7.5 sacks) to get to the quarterback, something he failed to do last week against Gadsden.
Hobbs will also need to do what it can to force turnovers. Hobbs has intercepted nine passes this year and recovered five fumbles.
The series between the two schools is limited. Centennial opened in 2012 and was Class 5A until the 2016 season. In 2017, the Hawks moved up to Class 6A and joined the Eagles district. Since then the Eagles and Hawks have played twice, with each team winning at home. Hobbs won 52-14 last season, but lost 54-41 in 2016.
“Their coach, we have been friends and I have known him since the early 1990s,” Gleghorn said. “We know each other really well and I always kind of know what he is thinking and I am sure he kind of knows what I am thinking too. There is not a lot of familiarity between our schools, but with the coaching staffs there is. It will be an interesting chess match. This is a big one.”
After tonight, Centennial has one regular season game left, a road trip to Gadsden on Nov. 2 while Hobbs still has two games remaining, a road trip to Mayfield a week from tonight and then a home game against Carlsbad on Nov. 2. As both teams are undefeated in district play, the winner of tonight’s game will likely take home the district championship.
“We still have work left,” Gleghorn said. “We still have a tough Mayfield team to play and Carlsbad is a rival game. We have a lot of work left.”