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Top 5 Local Sports stories in the News-Sun for 2023

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Top 5 Local Sports stories in the News-Sun for 2023

NEWS-SUN STAFF REPORT

For sports fans in Lea County and West Texas, there was a lot to be excited about in 2023. Whether it was at high school level or in college, the local sports scene provided plenty of fun, wins, and championships.

1. Hobbs boys soccer team wins state championship

The long wait was worth it for the Hobbs boys’ soccer team.

After 26 years, the Eagles finally won another state championship, and they did it in style, completing a perfect 23-0 season, all under the guidance of new head coach Reyes Marquez.

Over the course of the season, Hobbs blanked nine of its opponents. The Eagles had two games go to overtime, and they won both. In district play, the Eagles outscored their opponents 33-4.

And they won the long-awaited state championship on penalty kicks, against Atrisco Heritage at the University of New Mexico Soccer Complex in Albuquerque on Nov. 11.

About midway through the season the Eagles, then ranked No. 1 in the state, host the No. 2 team in the state, La Cueva, and won that game 2-1 in the final five seconds of regulation.

The Eagles scored 86 goals over the course of the season. Joshua Chavez led the Eagles’ offense with 24 goals and two assists while Franklin Ferrufino had 16 goals and eight assists. Juan Camacho also had double-figure goals with 10. Alexis Sanchez led the team in assists with 13.

The Eagles had five players earn All-State honors with Humberto Hernandez, Jorge Martinez, Chavez, and Ferrufino all being named first-team while Jordan Barron got second-team honors.

2. Lovington football team brings home state title

The Wildcats had a rough non-district slate, but it paid off when they got to the meat of their schedule, repeated as District 4/6-4A champions, then went on a run to win their second state championship in the past three seasons.

Though Lovington had beaten Portales to clinch the district title on Oct. 27, the state system of teams owing other teams home field advantage sent the ’Cats on the road for the state championship game, and they headed up to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales to face the Rams for the state crown on Nov. 25.

Turned out, home field didn’t matter. Lovington built a 22-0 lead, thanks to three Wyatt Gomez touchdown passes – two to Anson Marquez and one to Cesar Gonzalez – along with a pair of Caleb Aranda extra points and a Patrick Sanchez two-point conversion run. It was just the start of a big day for the Wildcats, who rolled to a 57-21 rout of the Rams and earned the coveted blue trophy.

3. Hobbs girls basketball team wins state championship

It had been too long – three years – since the Hobbs girls basketball team had last won a state title.

The Lady Eagles had beaten Volcano Vista for the state crown in March of 2020, just as COVID was sneaking in. But Hobbs lost to Volcano in the 2021 and ’22 state title games.

2023 saw a fourth consecutive state-championship matchup of the Lady Eagles and Lady Hawks. It hadn’t been an easy week for Hobbs up at The Pit in Albuquerque – the Lady Eagles trailed Sandia in the fourth quarter of their state quarterfinal on March 7 before closing with a 12-0 run. Hobbs trailed most of its March 9 semifinal against La Cueva before a big late push earned a victory in that game.

Then came the state championship game on March 11. The Lady Eagles apparently saved their best for last because they never trailed the two-time defending state champs and went on for a 52-45 victory to reclaim the blue trophy.

The Lady Eagles finished their championship season 28-3.

4. Lovington wins 5th consecutive cheer title

While the football team gets a lot of the glory, Lovington’s cheer squad does not miss a game. With all the hard work the Lovington cheer squad puts in to learn and perfect its game day routines for football and basketball, the practice doesn’t end when the final buzzer sounds.

Nope, Lovington’s cheer squad also has to work on its cheer competition routines which come during the winter sports months.

Back in March the Lovington cheer squad brought home its fifth straight state championship in Class 4A Co-ed cheer. Lovington has won every Class 4A title, except for 2020 when the championships were cancelled because of COVID-19, since 2018.

5. Hobbs cheer wins back-to-kcab titles

Hobbs won its first cheer title in 2019. The the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the state cheer competition was cancelled. While cheer returned in the abbreviated 2021 campaign, Hobbs did not field a team. Fast forward to 2022 and Hobbs was back, winning the championship. A year later, in 2023, Hobbs finally got to defend its Class 5A Co-ed title, and it was a success as Hobbs won the championship again.

Honorable Mentions

Facing Volcano Vista again, the Hobbs girls’ basketball team beat the Lady Hawks 78-50 to win the 6th Annual Hobbs Holiday Tournament. It was the Lady Eagles first title in their own tournament since 2019.

New Mexico Junior College’s men cross country team won the NJCAA National Championship in the half marathon as well as taking home a co-national championships in outdoor track & field. The Thunderbirds weren’t the only NMJC team to win a national title though as the women’s track & field team won the outdoor national championship for the fourth time in six years. Topping it off, the Lady Thunderbirds won the national title on their home track, Ross Black Track.

Marking a first for the NMJC volleyball program was the Lady Thunderbirds earning a spot in the NJCAA National Volleyball Championships. NMJC dropped its opening match 3-0 to Navarro College, but beat Mineral Area College 3-1 for its first National Championship match victory. NMJC then had its season come to an end with a 3-0 loss to Casper College.

There was one other NMJC team that had a lot of success last year, the women’s basketball team. The Lady Thunderbirds won the Region V Tournament and earned a spot in the NJCAA Women’s National Championship Tournament. NMJC won its first round game, beating Dodger City Community College 48-38, but was eliminated in the second round when the Lady Thunderbirds fell 61-58 to College of Southern Idaho.

Over in Texas, the Seminole football team had a stellar season. While the Indians did not win their district this season, they did make it to the Class 4A, Division II, Regionals.

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