Clovis High’s Scott Elliott, center, loses control of the ball against Jesus Torres, left, and Matt Bryant of Hobbs during Saturday’s championship match of the Clovis Invitational soccer tournament at Clovis High. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Hobbs sophomore Jacob Ray recorded a hat trick on Saturday and really had to put his head into it to get ’er done.
Thanks to Ray’s three second-half goals, the visiting Eagles beat Clovis 4-2 in the championship of the Clovis Invitational.
“He was named all-state last year, but there was a significant amount of improvement in his play between last year and this summer,” Hobbs coach Heath Weeks said after the game. “It’s been real exciting to watch.”
“I’ve done it before, but it’s not easy,” said Ray of his three-goal performance.
It was the second straight year that Hobbs has won the season-opening Clovis tourney over its district rivals.
“It’s good from a confidence point of view, but at the same time you feel like you’ve given away a little of what you have,” Weeks said. “They’ve got a little bit of time to look at that and think about it. The same thing happened last year, then we came up here (for a district game) and they beat us.”
Clovis (2-1) took a 1-0 lead five minutes into the contest when Luis Esparza found an open Baron Fillpot, who kicked a shot into the upper-left corner of the goal. But Hobbs (3-0) responded less than a minute later on Jesus Martinez’ header.
“We scored first and, instead of letting down, they just came right back at us,” Clovis coach Shaun Gill said.
The remainder of the first half was scoreless, but Ray set the tone just after intermission by beating a Clovis defender to a ball 15 yards in front of the Wildcats’ goal. Ray also managed to get there before Clovis keeper Josh Bussen converged on the ball and he poked in a shot into the open net.
Less than 10 minutes later, Clovis answered when Hobbs’ goalie Price Bunson left the goal area in an effort to stop an attempt by Jesus Loya. When the ball squirted back in front of the Eagles’ net, Clovis’ Luis Miranda punched it in to tie the match at 2-2.
Less than three minutes later, Ray scored the game-winner.
Ray’s last tally was on a diving header to convert a centering pass by teammate Emmanuel Cardoza with 21 minutes left.
Gill thought not only that Ray’s first two goals could be attributed to defensive lapses, but the picture-perfect third one as well.
“Even the header, he cut right in front of one of my defenders, who didn’t pick him up,” Gill said. “Three of their four goals were on our mistakes and they were able to capitalize.”
The game was played at the Clovis High football practice field, as was the case for the first day of the tournament.
“We let them set the tone and the pace, instead of playing our game. They’re a good team; that’s why they were district champs last year,” Gill said. “I feel bad for the seniors. They wanted to win their last home tournament, but it still doesn’t effect our overall goal. This is our third game of the season. I hope it didn’t deflate their bubble too much, but maybe they learned from it.”