It may only be summer football practice, but the sight and sounds of the Hobbs football team taking on the Lovington football team in a 7-on-7 Tuesday night at Watson Memorial Stadium was something both head coaches, Ken Stevens and Anthony Gonzales, had missed.
“It was good to be out here and get a little bit of normalcy going,” Stevens said. “It was good to see the kids out here running around, having fun, and some of the community out here. It just felt right. It was nice to be out here and getting a little bit of summer work in.”
“It is good to get out here and do something normal,” Gonzales added. “Get out here and compete and get back into the normalcy of what we are supposed to be doing in the summertime.”
A year ago teams weren’t allowed to practice unless they were in pods of five. Even when they were in their pods of five, they were not allowed any physical contact. Tuesday night had all of that and more as the Eagles and Wildcats were facing off on the gridiron, working on their respective passing attacks and passing defense.
“We have a lot of things to overcome and we are making progress,” Stevens said. “We are excited for this season and we are excited to work with these kids. We have a good group of kids and we are expecting to have a great season next year.”
While the teams don’t keep an official score, the Wildcats came out on top, unofficially.
Lovington appeared to be firing on all cylinders as the Wildcats scored on almost every offensive possession and ended five Hobbs drives with interceptions.
“Tayten Hilliard, Isaac Hinson, Joey Villalobos have come on really good this summer too,” Gonzales said. “This is really good. I don’t want to take away from this at all, but we just have to keep getting better. It is going to matter to those five guys up front.”
Still, despite the outcome, both teams got the chance to do work on what it needed, and got to do it against another team.
“This gives us the opportunity to go out and compete,” Gonzales said. “I felt like, part of our success last season in the spring was we did a good job preparing our kids to play that short season. What we didn’t get was the opportunity to compete. It doesn’t matter what we do in our offseason program, it doesn’t matter what we do in our summer strength and conditioning program, getting to compete against somebody in a different color jersey, you can’t replicate that.”
Hobbs and Lovington both had different signal callers under center Tuesday. Hobbs was without incoming senior Colton Graham who is playing in a baseball tournament in Georgia while Lovington graduated its quarterback, Jared Jeffrey, and has two players competing for the starting job.
“Colton is in a tournament in Georgia today, which was good for us,” Stevens said. “It gave us a chance to look at two other quarterbacks and kind of figure out who is going to be our No. 2 guy and see where they are at.”
The two players competing for the backup spot are Ethan Vanlandingham and Omar Argott.
We have a lot of work to do with those two guys,” Stevens said. “They are good athletes and good kids. It was a good thing to get them out there and get them a bunch of reps against a varsity team. They are both juniors and it was good work for them.”
Lovington is looking at Ashton Aranda, last year’s backup, and Wyatt Gomez, an incoming sophomore.
“Those two guys are battling it out,” Gonzales said. “Getting Ashton back, they just finished as the state runner-up in golf, they are battling every single day and it is good petition and good competition breeds success. Don’t know who (the No. 1) guy is yet, but they are battling their tails off.”
Tuesday night wasn’t a one-and-done for the Eagles and Wildcats. While there won’t be any big 7-on-7 tournaments in Roswell or Portales like in years past, both teams have a busy schedule of 7-on-7s this month.
Lovington will be in Hobbs again on each of the next two Tuesdays. The Wildcats will also host Clovis on Thursday, July 15 before traveling to Carlsbad on Thursday, July 22.
As for Hobbs, the Eagles are hoping to start a 7-on-7 passing league every Tuesday night. In addition to Lovington, the Portales Rams and Eunice Cardinals have expressed their interest to Stevens about coming on Tuesday night. Stevens also said he has invited Artesia, though since the Bulldogs just hired a new coach, the Eagles’ coach isn’t sure if Artesia will make it.
Hobbs is also hoping to add a linemen challenge on Tuesday when Lovington, Portales, and Eunice are at Watson Memorial Stadium.