Twenty-two down, one to go.
That’s what the Hobbs boys soccer season amounts to now. With Wednesday’s 3-0 win over fourth-seeded Centennial in a state 5A semifinal at Watson Memorial Stadium, the top-seeded Eagles improved to 22-0 while advancing to the state championship game, which will be 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the University of New Mexico’s Track & Field and Soccer Complex in Albuquerque. Hobbs will play third-seeded Atrisco Heritage Academy, who blanked second-seeded La Cueva 2-0 on Wednesday.
The Eagles earned their spot in the final with a dominant first-half performance, shut-out goaltending by Diego Castanon, and a bleacher packed with loud fans to urge them all on.
“It’s a good feeling,” Hobbs head coach Reyes Marquez said. “It’s a real good feeling knowing that the boys answered. We executed a heck of a game plan, and we stuck to it for 80 minutes, and we were rewarded.”
“I’m feeling really good,” said Eagles sophomore striker Juan Camacho, who scored two of his team’s three goals. “Like I said after district, that was just the start.”
“I’m so happy knowing that we’re going to the championship,” said Hobbs senior striker/midfielder Frankie Ferrufino, who scored the Eagles’ other goal.
Hobbs was on the attack from the beginning of Wednesday’s game. With a little over three minutes gone by in the first half, Camacho fired a shot that ricocheted off the right inner post of Centennial’s goal. With roughly 33-1/2 minutes to play in the half, another Camacho shot was deflected by Centennial defender Zane Brilliant. And near the first half’s 29-minute mark, Ferrufino had a good whack at the Hawks’ goal but it hit the crossbar.
A little more than a minute later, however, Camacho managed to sneak past Centennial’s defense for an open shot, which he buried in the Hawks’ goal with 27:41 left in the half. The Hobbs crowd went nuts, lights at Watson flickered on and off, and confetti went a-flying, as Camacho ran in front of the bleachers in celebration.
“I just followed a little pass and I put it in,” Camacho said of the goal. “I practiced it all week.”
The Eagles kept firing away, but for a while they weren’t able to increase their lead. With roughly 26 minutes remaining in the first half, Ferrufino ripped a shot that Centennial sophomore keeper Walden Thomas leapt to catch. Less than a minute later, Camacho was free for a shot but was called offside.
And with roughly 23 minutes to go before halftime, Hobbs junior midfielder/striker Alexis Sanchez booted one from the left sideline’s 15-yard line, but Thomas caught that as well.
The Hawks did have their chances to tie the game. Just past the first half’s 22-minute mark, Centennial sophomore Victor Rios fired a shot that sailed over the Hobbs crossbar. With a little over 20 minutes to play before the break, Castanon headed away a shot. And with roughly 17-1/2 minutes remaining in the half, Castanon slid to stop a Centennial shot that was coming right-to-left along a straight line.
About a minute later, with Hobbs on the attack, senior striker Joshua Chavez fed the ball to Ferrufino, who took a shot that was blocked. Chavez tried to punch home the rebound but his shot doinked off the upper right crossbar.
However, with 12:38 to play before halftime, the Eagles added another goal as Ferrufino headed one in to make it a 2-0 game. As the Watson lights flickered and the confetti flew again, Ferrufino ran past the bleachers, giving the crowd a how-do-you-like-that pose.
“I was so happy when I got that goal,” Ferrufino said. “I saw Alexis win the ball with his head, and I saw the ball in the air, so I had to go and win the ball and score.”
The Eagles tried to pad their lead before halftime. Right around the 11-minute mark, a Ferrufino shot went just left. A minute later, a reverse header by Ferrufino narrowly missed to the left. And with roughly 8-1/2 minutes remaining before the half, a Sanchez free kick was caught by Thomas.
But just past the first half’s two-minute mark, Hobbs senior striker Zander Castillo was in front of the left side of Centennial’s goal when he headed the ball right, and it found Camacho, who headed it in to give the Eagles a 3-0 advantage.
“I was like, ‘This is it, I gotta get this goal, just like I practiced it,’” Camacho said.
There was another goal celebration with the flickering lights and confetti, as Camacho again ran in front of the bleachers. But that was the game’s last goal celebration because the second half turned out to be scoreless, with freshman keeper Nicholas Raitt in goal for Centennial, and Hobbs playing a bit less aggressive.
“After we scored the three, yeah, we’re still hungry,” Marquez said. “But the reality is, we’ve got to make sure that we stay healthy. We passed the ball a little more, dominated a little more. They (the Hawks) took a lot of risks, but we were unwilling to take the risks, so we really made sure that the back end was solid. It was a good game plan for 80 minutes.”
“We kept our game plan, played our game, stayed focused,” Camacho said. “And now, let’s go get it.”