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Eagles’ defense key in big win over Cavemen

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Eagles’ defense key in big win over Cavemen

JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN

For the first time since the 2006 through 2009 seasons, the Hobbs football team has a three-game win streak over the Carlsbad Cavemen. The Eagles beat Carlsbad 42-7 in 2022 and 48-7 in 2021. Friday night, the Eagles beat the Cavemen 35-12 behind a strong effort from its defense.

“The defense played really well,” Hobbs coach Ken Stevens said. “We were missing Zaeden McPherson tonight. He is our leading, or second-leading, tackler and really the captain of the defense. He makes all the calls back there. I was worried about not having in this game, however the defense rallied and played great.”

The Eagles’ offense struggled early. On Hobbs’ first two drive, the Eagles managed just 10 total yards on their first two drives. While that may not seem bad, those two drives had a total of 14 plays and two first downs and had a receiver drop an easy touchdown pass.

“We always have each other’s back. When the offense is down, we have to come back,” Hobbs junior linebacker Gustavo Diaz-Castro said. “We have to lead it as a defense.”

However, while the offense was stalling, the defense was holding the Cavemen at bay. Hobbs forced Carlsbad to punt on its first three drives. The Cavemen netted just 39 yards in the first quarter.

The Eagles finally got their offense going near the end of the first quarter. Saul Armendariz started things off with a 10-yard run. After an incomplete pass, Armendariz had runs of 9-yards and 17-yards before Owen Callaway connected with Jeremiah Jaquez on a 30-yard reception that set up first-and-goal. Armendariz then bulldozed his way into the end zone, giving Hobbs a 6-0 lead with 10:42 left in the second quarter.

The Cavemen did score in the second quarter, getting a 20-yard touchdown pass play with 6:16 left in the half. After Hobbs’ offense stalled out again, punting after a three-and-out, the Eagles’ defense came up big.

On the first play of the Cavemen’s ensuing drive, Kanyon Johnson dropped Carlsbad’s running back for a two-yard loss. On the next play, junior linebacker Gustavo Diaz-Castro picked off a pass. On the Eagles’ first offensive play following the interception, Callaway found Jaquez in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.

“Earlier in the game, I bit on a run,” Diaz-Castro said. “It was an RPO and I learned from it. I made it and made a play.”

Andrew Torres got a huge sack late in the half, taking down Carlsbad’s quarterback for an 11-yard loss.

The Eagles’ defense allowed just 109 yards in the first half. Carlsbad was 13-of-30 passing the ball for 106 yards while the Cavemen picked up 108 yards on 21 carries.

Hobbs led by just eight points, 14-6, at the break.

“Carlsbad came out and their coach has done a good job of getting those guys to play hard,” Stevens said. “A lot of times when you only have two wins, a lot of kids want to check it in, but they definitely got up for us and gave us everything we could handle there in that first half.”

Hobbs had a lengthy drive to open the second half, but failed to score. Carlsbad responded with its longest drive of the night, a four-play drive that covered 75 yards. The Cavemen closed within two points of Hobbs at 14-12 when Ulysses Mendoza broke free and scored on a 63-yard carry.

“They caught us in a blitz and they broke a long run,” Stevens said. “We didn’t have anyone at the second level, but that happens.”

But the Eagles quickly responded when Callaway connected with Isaiah Rodriguez for 23 yards and then connected with junior D’Shawn Franklin on a 28-yard touchdown strike.

Three plays after the Eagles’ touchdown, senior Cameron Hernandez forced Carlsbad quarterback Kason Perez to fumble the ball while trying to avoid a sack. Enter Diaz-Castro who scooped up the ball and got it to the 16-yard line before being tackled. Three plays later, Armendariz found the end zone for the second time, pushing Hobbs’ lead to 28-12.

“I was excited,” Diaz-Castro said. “I was a little slow on it. I wish I would have taken it to the house, but, as always, give it to the offense, expect them to score, and they did.”

The Eagles would get one more touchdown in the fourth quarter when Franklin hauled in a 27-yard reception for the game’s final score.

The Eagles’ defense held the Cavemen to 105 yards in the second half and 214 for the game. Hobbs’ defense had two takeaways while the offense protected the ball for the third straight game.

“It was physical to start,” Hobbs junior Gustavo Diaz-Castro said. “They said (Carlsbad) was going to come in physical. We have been watching film and studying them from the start. We knew what their plays were from studying them. We were on them like an eagle.”

Callaway finished with 171 yards passing while completing 16 of 24 passing attempts. The senior signal caller threw three touchdown passes. He also rushed for 14 yards.

Frankin was the Eagles’ leading receiver, catching three passes for 65 yards. Jaquez caught six passes for 48 yards and a score while Justin Black had four receptions for 40 yards.

On the ground, Armendariz finished with 99 yards on 20 carries. The senior running back scored two touchdowns and converted a two-point run.

With the win, the Eagles finish the regular season 5-5 and 3-2 in district play. Hobbs will find out who they play, and where, in the playoffs later today.

“There is a chance (for a home game),” Stevens said. “I like our chances whoever we play. We just want an opportunity to play. That is what the boys want.”

Carlsbad finishes the season with a 2-8 mark overall with a 1-4 record in the district.

“We executed well,” Diza-Castro said. “I feel like we did very well. I feel like we were more physical that them.”

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