It all came down to that goose egg.
There was no doubt who was going to win the game. The Hobbs Eagles football team was up 36 points late in the fourth quarter with a running clock.
However the Gadsden Panthers had a first-and-10 at the Eagles 4-yard line and chomping at the bit to get on the scoreboard. First down was a 2-yard run from Panthers running back Alvaro Vargas. He got the ball on second down and was stopped for no gain. On third down, Panthers quarterback Jesse Sanchez ran down a high snap that put him out of position. Once he got the ball he did his best scrambling moves to dodge a pair of Eagle defensive linemen gunning for him in the backfield, before heaving the ball to a receiver at the 10-yard line.
The ball landed softly into the arms of Eagle defensive back Presley Greenough, however, who bobbed and weaved his way 90 yards through the Panthers offense for an apparent score. Here comes the “but.” But Hobbs was called for a block in the back penalty and settled for first-and-10 at the Panthers 40-yard line.
Greenough didn’t get his touchdown, but the Hobbs defense kept its goose egg as the Eagles got their first home win and second consecutive victory, 43-0. Hobbs travels next week to Las Cruces Centennial, which beat Mayfield 33-7.
When was the last time Hobbs (2-5 overall, 2-1 District 3-4/5A) earned a shutout? If you guess the last time Gadsden was in town you’re a winner! In 2017, the Eagles beat the Panthers 54-0.
“They wanted that goose egg,” Hobbs head coach Ken Stevens said of his defensive players. “You get late into the game and you’re up big, that would have been a great time to just kick back let them score and still get the win. But that’s what we’re not teaching here. We have been wanting our guys to play a full four quarters. Play tough on defense, and our guys wanted that goose egg. They didn’t want Gadsden to score and when they needed it, they made a big play.”
Big plays is how the game’s scoring started, again by defense. After Hobbs’ first drive ended on downs at the Gadsden 5-yard line, Panthers starting quarterback Derrick Martinez was sacked in the end zone for a 2-point safety with 9:25 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kick off, the Eagles’ offense began to click when quarterback Jarren Lewis found running back Isaiah Vaughn on a 22-yard touchdown pass and a 9-0 Eagles lead with 8:09 left in the first.
At 5-foot-8, 160-pounds, Vaughn tore up the Panthers defense. When he wasn’t catching 89 yards off of four receptions, he rushed for 107 yards on 9 attempts. The biggie was a 49-yard sprint through the heart of the Gadsden defense with 6:18 left in the first half, increasing the lead to 16-0.
While Stevens was happy with the rushing attack munching up 249 yards, he knew where a lot of the credit belongs.
“Our offensive line just continues to improve,” he said. “Seeing our kids run the ball well gives our O-line a confidence boost. It also helps take some pressure off the quarterback and the passing game.”
Lewis was barely touched as he threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Soverign Anthony with 4:27 left in the first half. That led to a 23-0 halftime lead.
It was more of the same in the second half. Vaughn raced 24 yards for a touchdown run and Lewis found Tyson Trevino on a 14-yard scoring pass in the third quarter. After Greenough’s interception return started a Hobbs drive at the Gadsden 40, the Eagles needed five plays before Demitrius Frausto scored from a yard out for a 43-0 lead with 5:23 left in the game.
As great of a performance the Eagles gave, it could have been better. Hobbs committed four turnovers, three of which ended promising drives.
“It delayed the inevitable a bit, but it’s still frustrating,” Stevens said. “We won the turnover battle in our previous two games and it’s something that we have always preached. We’ve done a good job of protecting the ball.”
A “good job” and a couple “atta-boys” is what the Eagles got from their coaches after the game.
“Seeing the kids learn what we have been teaching is great to see,” Stevens said. “It doesn’t matter the situation, it doesn’t matter the score. They may have the ball inside the 10, but they kept fighting. Make them earn every inch, every yard and that is what our kids did tonight. The battled and kept fighting and good things happened.”
Like starting and ending with a goose egg in the opponent’s side of the scoreboard.