The Hobbs football team was hitting on all cylinders Friday night in the battle for Lea County against Lovington at Watson Memorial Stadium.
The contest saw both teams records go to 3-1, and for Hobbs the 46-0 victory was their third shutout of the year — and their fourth shutout in the last five games. The Eagles also blanked Clovis in Week 1 with a score of 21-0, and defeated Roswell last week with a score of 14-0.
Hobbs head football coach Ken Stevens said he was proud of how the team came together for the win.
“The defense has been playing all year, but the offense came out and really made some plays tonight. I think the offense wanted to show, ‘Hey, we’re a pretty good offense too.’ I think they came out and showed that tonight,” Stevens told the News-Sun following the game. “We hadn’t put all three (defense, offense, and special teams) together quite yet this year, and I’m proud of all three units.”
He also noted how the Eagles’ offensive line stepped up to give the 6A #7, and #10 in the state-ranked Eagles their third non-conference win, and mark the second win in a row.
“The offensive line played outstanding. Great job up front. They completely dominated,” said Stevens, and named the linemen individually. “Soni Siaosi (65), Mario Lazano (77), Ashton Whatley (78), Luke Robinson (75), and ‘big’ Josh Ray
(68). Those guys dominated up front.”
The Wildcats – who came into the game riding their own win streak, as the #1 ranked 4A football program, and #11 ranked in the state just behind the Eagles – had previously beaten Santa Teresa 14-6, Roswell 31-25, and Alamogordo 22-21.
But Lovington’s streak against 5A teams came to a crashing halt on Friday. Hobbs already led 13-0 by the first quarter’s end, thanks to a pair of Kaden Trevino touchdowns – on a three-yard run and a seven-yard pass from Colton Graham.
The Eagles made it 20-0 by halftime with a 32-yard scoring pass from Graham to Ethan Vanlandingham in the second quarter.
Jayonni Royal found the end zone twice in the third quarter, with scoring runs from four and two yards out. Later in the period, Hector Armendariz broke loose for a 69-yard punt return touchdown, and it was 39-0 through three.
Royal scored his third touchdown on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Hobbs played a turnover-free game. Not so for Lovington, victimized by two interceptions – one each by the Eagles’ Jordan Chism and James Moore.
Two standouts on the Hobbs side were happy with the way the Eagles seemed to finally come together as a football team rather than the offense doing well, or the defense doing well, and carrying the team.
“It feels good,” Royal said. “Our O-line, they’re doing their job, and are getting in the motion now, creating opportunities for the quarterback, receivers, and running backs to make plays. … We had a breakout night. We understood the assignments. Our defense has been very good these last few games and we wanted to help them out.”
Hobbs defensive end Blake Hensley, who had one and a half sacks on the night, agreed it was an all-around effort, but was a tough win despite the scoreboard looking lopsided.
“We played hard every play, and we never give up,” Hensley said. “The last two years everyone’s been talking us down because our record wasn’t that good, and now everyone is starting to see who we really are.
“We’re not done, we’re going to keep going.”
Royal and Stevens agreed.
“Every game is important. We come to play,” Royal said.
“We’re going to show up every game and play hard,” Stevens elaborated. “Win or lose, we’re going to show up and play to the best of our ability every Friday. I’m really proud of this team.”
Wildcats head coach Anthony Gonzales said he too was proud of his team and the effort the players gave, knowing they were playing a bigger school that has been playing well in recent weeks. While Gonzales’ players played hard, mistakes made on the Lovington side of the ball cost them the game, he said.
“They’re (Hobbs) a good football team. We knew that coming into it. They’re a much improved football team who are playing hard, and they’ve gotten better,” Gonzales told the News-Sun after a quick player meeting following the game. “For us, our message to the team was – don’t let them use us to defeat us. And, that’s what took place tonight.
“Foolish penalties, pre-snap penalties, throwing the ball to the other team, we lost the turnover battle, those things will make you not successful.”
But, Gonzales was quick to point out the season is young, as is the team, and he loves coaching them.
“I love our football team,” he said, noting the loss is hard, but is an opportunity to improve for the rest of the season. “I don’t like losing like this, and I know those kids in the locker room don’t like losing like this either. We’re a better football team than what was on the field tonight. They know it, I know it.
“This group will respond,” Gonzales added. “I told them after the game, ‘How that game ended, that doesn’t define who the Lovington Wildcats are. How we respond (Saturday) morning at 10 a.m., and on Monday morning when it’s time to get the game plan for Denver City, that’s what’s going to define us as a football team.”
Gonzales said it is a teachable moment for the young Wildcats team, and he knows they will use the opportunity to become better down the stretch.
“This is a resilient group. They’re a great football team — they didn’t play that way tonight, but that’s on me as the head coach — not on these kids at all,” Gonzales said. “The mistakes that were made are on me, and it’s my job to fix it.”
Even though the effort of the Wildcats fell short, there were still standouts on the team, said Gonzales.
“Demarcus Thompson, a sophomore linebacker, I thought he did an outstanding job tonight. He got in on both sides of the ball,” Gonzales said. “Hobbs has a really good defensive front and we knew that coming in, but we did some good things at times as an offensive line, then we didn’t do some very good things at times. … There were some bright spots, and there were things we need to get corrected, and we’ll make sure we get that done.”
Lovington quarterback Ashton Aranda agreed the loss was hard.
“We’ve got to keep working,” Aranda told the News-Sun after the game. “We struggled offensively. We’re going to get better from here.”
The Eagles next play Goddard in Roswell at 7 p.m. this Friday, while the Wildcats look to their game in Denver City at 6 p.m. also this Friday.