LAS CRUCES – For the first time since 2000, the Hobbs football team is 6-0. The Eagles maintained their undefeated season with a 44-28 win over the Bulldawgs in Las Cruces Friday night.
“This is a huge win,” Hobbs coach Ken Stevens said. “I told the boys going in, you have to learn from history. Last year (Las) cruces High came to Hobbs and beat us. They ended up with the five seed and we ended up with the eight seed. Had we won that game, we are probably up there with a five or six see last year. It is one game and it is that big.”
While the Eagles got the win, it wasn’t easy.
Hobbs scored first when Diego Baeza got into the end zone on the games opening drive for a 7-0 lead. The senior had three carries on the opening drive for 13 yards.
However, as quickly as Hobbs scored and took the lead, Las Cruces would tie the game and put the Eagles in a deficit.
Las Cruces was forced to punt on its opening drive. Facing a fourth-and-14 at their own 43, the Bulldawgs punted. But, Las Cruces recov – ered the ball when it bounced up touched the back of a Hobbs player’s jersey. Facing a first-and-10 at the Hobbs 20, the Bulldawgs scored, knotting the game at 7-7.
On the Eagles ensuing drive, quarterback Omar Argott threw an interception. The Bulldawgs picked off Argott on the first play of the drove, once again giving Las Cruces excellent field possession. And like the Bulldawgs did on their last takeaway, they scored again, this time needing three plays.
Suddenly the Eagles went from leading 7-0 with 9:22 left in the first quarter to trailing 14-7 with 3:46 left in the opening quarter.
“Two turnovers. One was a dumb mistake, letting the punt hit us in the back,” Stevens said. “We have a code word we yell out that tells everybody to get away and we didn’t do it. That is inexcusable.
“The interception, it just sailed on Omar,” the Eagles’ coach continued. “He has played great all year. It just sailed on him and that is going to happen every now and then.”
But the Eagles didn’t back down.
“One amazing thing I love about my team, is we play as a team. We all have each other’s backs,” Baeza said. “No matter what happens, we are always there for each other.
Starting their next drive at their own 30, the Eagles drove 70 yards on nine plays. Hobbs closed out the first quarter before scoring on the first play of the second quarter. Just like the Eagles’ first score, it was Baeza getting into the end zone to knot the game at 14-all.
But Hobbs had a hard time stopping the Bulldawgs rushing game.
After the Yahir Chacon kicked off, the Bulldawgs started at their own 19. Las Cruces then pounded the ball through the Eagles’ defensive line. Las Cruces picked up 46 yards on the ground on seven rushes against 35 yards through the air on three completions.
Bulldawg running back David Barela seemingly had his way with the Eagles as he piled up the yardage. After scoring the Bulldawgs first two touchdowns on runs of 20 and 22 yards, the Las Cruces senior scored again in the third quarter, this time on a three-yard run.
About four minutes later the Eagles tied the game again, on Baeza’s third rushing score of the day.
After giving the ball away twice in the first quarter, the Eagles finally got a takeaway in the second, recovering a fumble late in the second quarter. Five plays later the Eagles were back in the end zone when Kaden Trevino hauled in an 18-yard reception from Argott. Trevino’s touchdown, his fifth of the season, allowed Hobbs to re-take the lead.
The Eagles would not trail again.
“What our kids have demonstrated all year is they are resilient, that we are going to keep battling. It doesn’t matter if we get a bad break or something doesn’t go our way. We are going to continue to battle and play hard. And, I think it shows the strength of our team bond, we stayed together on that. It would have been easy to get down and point fingers at people and blame things, but they pick each up and hold each other accountable and continue to play together. I am very proud of that aspect of our team.”
Following the Eagles touchdown, Las Cruces put together a solid drive, getting to the Eagles’ nine, but Jordan Chism sacked Lashley for a 14-yard loss. Chism forced a fumble during the sack that C.J. Romero scooped up and ran back for a 75-yard score, but the referees had other plans.
The referees negated the touchdown, returning the ball to where Lashley was sacked. Then, the ball was given back to Las Cruces as the officials ruled there was no fumble.
“They ran it right into me,” Chism said. “I just had to make a play. It was down and distance and they didn’t have far to go, so I knew I had to do something.”
After a quick pass getting them back to the Eagles’ 17, the Bulldawgs attempted a 33-yard field goal, and missed.
Hobbs took the ball and knelt on it, bring the first half to a close with the Eagles in front 28-21.
Las Cruces got the ball to start the second half and four plays into the half, Hobbs forced another takeaway. After losing out on his forced fumble to end the second quarter, Chism picked off Lashley, allowing the Eagles to take over on Las Cruces’ 32.
“My teammates got to the quarterback and got him in a little bit of a bind,” Chism said. “He just had to get rid of (the ball) and he threw it straight to me. He made it easy on me.”
Hobbs pushed all the way to Las Cruces’ eight before being stopped. But, the Eagles still got a few points as Chacon drilled his third field goal of the season, a 25-yarder for a 31-21 lead.
Las Cruces scored once more, when Lashley connected with Barela for a five-yard pass with 43 seconds left in the third.
Hobbs added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Baeza scored on a 14 yard run with 9:42 to play while Ethan Vanlandingham got into the end zone on a nine-yard run with 2:06 left on the clock. For Baeza, it was his fourth touchdown of the game.
One-third of Baeza’s rushing scores came in the Eagles win over Las Cruces Friday night.
“It was pretty darn awesome, I am not going to lie,” Baeza said after scoring a career-high four touchdowns. “I have an awesome offensive line though and they made it pretty easy.”
The Eagles piled up 442 yards of total offense, 214 coming through the air and another 228 on the ground. They scored five touchdowns and finished with 44 points (or more) for the fifth time (in six games) this season.
Baeza finished with 21 carries for 130 yards and four scores. He also had one reception for 11 yards. Argott rushed the ball 12 times for 76 yards and Vanlandingham had four carries for 22 yards and a score.
“Heck of a night for that guy,” Stevens said. “He is a very good running back. He was nursing an injury earlier in the year, so we didn’t use him a whole lot. We tried to keep him healthy to get him to district. … Now we have him 100 percent and so we are not holding anything back now.”
Through the air, Argot was 12-of-16 for 214 yards. He had one touchdown pass and an interception. Trevino hauled in seven passes for 135 yards and a score while Jeremiah Jaquez caught four passes for 68 yards.
With the win, the undefeated Eagles improve to 6-0. Hobbs will now host Centennial in a battle of Class 6A Top 10 teams when the No. 2 Hawks visit Watson Memorial Stadium on Friday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
“It is going to be huge,” Stevens said. “That is why we work like we do in the offseason. That is why we come in during the summer time. That is why we do the things we do, to put ourselves in a position to play in games that matter. It should be fun and I am hoping the whole community of Hobbs comes out like they did for the Rio Rancho game.”