23 and oh yeah!
Eagles win first state title since ’97
ALBUQUERQUE – Move over, 1997 Hobbs boys soccer team. You have company now.
Saturday night, the 2023 Eagles won the boys soccer program’s first state championship in 26 years and its second state title, period, by edging Atrisco Heritage 2-1 on Eliud Hernandez’s decisive penalty kick at the University of New Mexico Track & Field and Soccer Complex in Albuquerque.
The Eagles also completed an undefeated championship season, ending at 23-0.
“It’s one of those things that, at the beginning of the year we set a goal,” Hobbs head coach Reyes Marquez said. “And sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Did I think we were going to go 23-0? Never, never. But this team was very capable of it.”
And the Eagles did it.
“The word I’m thinking of? Perfect,” Marquez said. “We’re perfect.”
“I feel happy knowing that we’re taking a championship back home,” Eagles senior midfielder Jorge Martinez said. “We made history in Hobbs.”
“I’m very excited,” Hernandez said. “This is my last year, it’s my senior year. I’m very excited to win it.”
“Shock, happiness and excitement,” Hobbs junior goalie Diego Castanon said. “We haven’t won since ’97, and I’m just really happy for this program, I’m happy for the people who came out and showed love for us.”
“It’s a whole lot of excitement, something I’ve never felt before,” Eagles sophomore defender Fabian Astorga said. “We came out here, perfect record. I’m speechless; when that last goal went in, I don’t know, I felt pride. I was so happy, so much excitement.”
“It feels good,” Hobbs senior striker/defenseman Omari Patton said. “Especially because as a team we could win this, coming back from last year when we didn’t win it.”
Saturday’s game was tied 1-all at halftime, still tied 1-all at the end of regulation, again after the first 10-minute overtime period, and again after the second 10-minute overtime.
So, it came down to penalty kicks, and each team had five chances to make as many of them as they could.
Atrisco Heritage kicked first and made good on the opportunity, as senior Marco Lara scored on Castanon. Hobbs’ first penalty kick was attempted by Frankie Ferrufino Lagos, who missed left.
On Atrisco Heritage’s second kick, sophomore Michael Rios’ attempt sailed over the goal. Same for the initial kick by Hobbs’ Adrian Sanchez, but he was awarded a re-kick. That, however, was blocked.
Elehi Ortega attempted Atrisco Heritage’s third penalty kick, which Castanon dove right to block. Hobbs senior Joshua Chavez then punched his attempt into the goal’s left corner, giving each team one made kick apiece.
The Jaguars regained their penalty kick edge when Jonathan Moreno sent one into the right corner of the goal. But Hobbs evened it out again when senior Jordan Barron ripped his attempt into the left corner of the goal.
So the teams were even in made kicks as the fifth round began. Luis Ortiz’s attempt for Atrisco Heritage was blocked by Castanon, meaning the Eagles would win, would take the state championship, if Hernandez made his attempt.
“I knew I had it,” Hernandez said. “I felt confident in myself. And I was praying to God, I let Him take all my worries and I let Him do His own thing. So he used me, and I just put it in.”
And the Eagles then did their own thing, charging off the UNM Soccer Complex field to go celebrate with their family and friends in the stands. Celebrate a historic state title, celebrate 23-0.
But it wasn’t easy. Atrisco Heritage had scored first in the game, as Rios attacked the goal and fired a shot past Castanon to hand the Jaguars a 1-0 edge with 19:34 left in the first half.
Hobbs tied it with 7:23 to go in the half, off a Juan Camacho corner kick that was on a collision course with Martinez’s head.
“Most of my goals have been off headers,” Martinez said. “So when I saw the corner kick, I was like, ‘I need to get to the ball and I need to win this ball.’ When I saw the ball coming up in the air, I had a feeling that I was going to win the ball. I jumped up and I put my head on it, and then I saw it in the back of the net.”
But neither team could score in the second half. Both overtimes were golden goal situations, with Atrisco Heritage having most of the good chances. Open Jaguar shots, though, sailed just wide, or just over the Hobbs goal.
And then came the penalty kicks, a nerve-racking situation for everyone involved, especially Castanon, the Hobbs player who was tasked with trying to stave off the shots by Atrisco Heritage.
“My mentality is, I’m always better,” Castanon said. “I block out everything else, and that’s what helped me today.”
Castanon was good enough to keep Hobbs in it, good enough to set up Hernandez for his game-winning heroics. Good enough to help the Eagles win that elusive state championship, something for the whole team, the whole community to savor.
“The winner deserves it all,” Martinez said. “And at the end of the day, we deserved it. And we’re champions.”