Whenever the Clovis Wildcats and Hobbs Eagles get together, there’s no love lost.
“We’ve just always hated them,” junior defensive end Armando Lopez said. “That’s all I’ve ever known.”
But does hatred make a rivalry? Hobbs coach Bruce Dollar isn’t so sure right now.
“There’s one deal about a rivalry — it’s got to be two-sided,” said Dollar, in his first year coaching the Eagles. “It’s been one-sided for a long time.”
Clovis would like to keep it that way, optimistic a convincing win at Watson Memorial Stadium would earn the Wildcats a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Wildcats assistant Darren Kelley said even a close win over the Eagles (3-6) would give Clovis an 8-2 record and the District 4-5A championship, and that should be a good enough resume for one of Class 5A’s top four seeds.
“I think winning is the most important thing,” Kelley said. “There’s not a set number we have to win by. For us, the biggest thing is the district championship. From there, it’s up to the seeding committee to take care of what it’s supposed to do.”
Both teams have a test in front of them, as the power-running teams will face off, with senior Patrick Smith taking the Eagles’ carries and junior Quran Wiggins leading the Wildcats’ rushing attack with 1,188 yards.
For Clovis, the test is the first power-running team they’ve seen since a 49-0 thrashing at the hands of Ronnie Daniels and La Cueva. The Wildcats want to make sure Smith doesn’t have a repeat of his 319-yard performance against Carlsbad.
Ideally, the Eagles would like to milk the clock and see Smith get 30-plus carries.
“We’ve been able to run the ball pretty well in most of our games,” Dollar said. “The key for us is going to be successful, we have to be able to run the football.”
The Wildcats, meanwhile, look to stop Hobbs from doing just that.
“We’ve got to be able to contain him and watch the cutbacks, which is what he’s good at,” Lopez said of Smith.
The test for Hobbs is where it belongs in the district and in Class 5A, and just how potent their rushing can be against a physical defensive squad like the Wildcats.
“Clovis is one of the most difficult teams, year in and year out, to run the football against,” Dollar said. “They’re physical, they’re strong, and they don’t make mistakes on defense.”
Though the record hasn’t shown it, the rebuilding is going well, said Dollar, a former Alamogordo coach and athletic director at Carlsbad.
“You’d like to win more games, but I think we’ve progressed from where we started,” he said. “We had some close games where we felt like maybe we had a chance to win, but we didn’t.
“We have the opportunity to be a top-tier 5A team. We have to (find out Friday) how far we have to go.”
Kelley said the Wildcats can’t afford to be complacent, because it’s not the same Hobbs squad they beat 58-0 last season.
“They’re a lot more disciplined, they’re a lot more sound in what they’re doing,” Kelley said. “You’re not having to guess what they’re doing week to week.”
Clovis (7-2, 1-0) at Hobbs (3-6, 1-0)
7 p.m., Watson Memorial Stadium
On radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 99.1 FM; KTQM 99.9 FM; KWKA 680 AM; KICA 98.3 FM.
On TV: 6 p.m. Saturday, KFCL Comcast Channel 98, UHF channel 41; 6 p.m. Tuesday replay.
Coaches: Clovis, Eric Roanhaus, 32nd season, 297-102-5. Hobbs, Bruce Dollar, first season, 3-6
Last week: The Wildcats defeated Carlsbad 42-7 in their District 4-5A opener. The Eagles were idle after beating the Cavemen 49-28 on Oct. 23.
Common opponents: Both teams have played Alamogordo, Artesia, Goddard and Rio Rancho. The Eagles are 1-3 against those teams (35-21 win over Alamogordo, 40-7 loss to Artesia, 35-7 loss to Goddard, 42-27 loss to Rio Rancho). Clovis is 3-1 (27-14 over Alamogordo, 48-10 over Artesia, 31-14 over Goddard, 21-17 loss to Rio Rancho).
Last meeting: 2008, Clovis won 58-0.
Hobbs players to watch: Sr. RB Patrick Smith, 5-8, 158; Sr. FS Angel Sanchez, 6-1, 150; So. LB Reggie Mackey, 5-10, 185.