JAL – At times during Thursday night’s football game between Jal’s varsity and Hobbs’ junior varsity, the lights at Jal High School’s Panther Stadium flickered.
But, the power of Jal’s team never wavered, as the Panthers executed offensively and defensively and rolled to a 54-0 victory over Hobbs.
Four touchdowns each by Alexavier Carreon and Jacob Lujan, plus a relentless defense, lifted the Panthers to a 2-1 record.
“I was real pleased with the effort, the attention to detail,” Jal head coach Dusty Giles said. “We really focused in on some of the things we’ve been struggling with.”
“I feel like today was just a preview,” Lujan said. “We just came out as a better team after playing a good Raton team last week. We made improvements … and that’s how it’s going to be all year.”
Jal needed a non-district opponent on its schedule, and Hobbs’ jayvee was willing to step up. But a varsity team playing a jayvee team can be an intriguing, and strange, situation.
“It’s more difficult – the data, gathering film. It’s hard to scout them,” Giles said. “It’s just a lot more difficult to prepare, usually on a short week, too, like this week. But it does allow for a lot of in-game adjustments. The kids have to be able to think on the fly, and that’s always good.”
For Hobbs, it was a long night, but a good tune-up for tonight’s jayvee matchup against Roswell.
“I wasn’t disappointed with the effort,” Hobbs head jayvee coach Drew Robinson said. “They played a lot sharper than we did, but our effort was good. We played hard.”
And started well. Jal received the opening kickoff, which was fumbled – ironically – by Lujan, one of the game’s eventual stars. Hobbs’ Saul Armendariz was there for the recovery.
The Eagles went to work at Jal’s 24, and after Braden McAfee was held to a one-yard rushing loss, quarterback Owen Callaway went to the air on second-and-11 from the Panthers 25. Callaway threw to the end zone, but Lujan was there to make an interception, and he didn’t take a knee for the touchback. Instead, Lujan returned the ball out to Hobbs’ 48. Five plays later, Carreon rushed for a 22-yard touchdown.
Isaiah Rodriguez kicked the extra point, and with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter, Jal was up 7-0.
Late in the quarter, Ethan Sandoval recovered a Hobbs fumble at the Panthers’ 32, leading to a seven-play Jal drive that ended with a 12-yard Carreon touchdown run. Another Rodriguez extra point gave the Panthers a 14-0 advantage with 1:10 to go in the first.
Jal’s next possession – the Panthers’ first of the second quarter – ended with a 20-yard Carreon touchdown run and another Rodriguez extra point, giving Jal a 21-0 lead with 11:01 left in the half.
Three plays into Hobbs’ ensuing possession, with the Eagles facing third-and-14 from their own 17, Lujan intercepted a deep pass at Hobbs’ 45, and returned it for a pick-six.
“I saw the out man, the outside receiver run a four-route,” Lujan recalled. “And the slot was running an eight right at me. So I just had to read the ball and make my play.”
Rodriguez again booted the extra point, making it 28-0 with 9:06 left in the half.
Lujan found the end zone again late in the second quarter, this time reeling in a 33-yard scoring pass from Carreon with 52 seconds left before halftime.
Rodriguez’s fifth successful PAT put the game in 35-point territory heading into the third quarter.
The second half featured 53- and 69-yard touchdown runs by Lujan, and a 28-yard scoring jaunt by Carreon, which ended the game on the 50-point rule.
Lujan found the end zone in myriad ways – rushing, receiving and with his pick-six.
“The run, that was credit to the blockers,” Lujan said. “The catch was credit to the passer. The pick-six, that was all me. I had to make my play.”
“He had a heck of a game for us,” Giles said. “Except for that little blip on the opening kickoff. He’s going to hear about it (Friday) morning, but he sure made up for it.”