By Kevin Wilson
CNJ staff writer
Had Clovis and Hobbs played defense all season like they did Saturday, there’s a chance they wouldn’t have played Saturday in a do-or-die match to reach the Class 5A soccer playoffs.
In a game that saw just four shots on goal, the Wildcats got the best of the matchup with a 2-1 win to claim the District 4-5A championship, and most assuredly the district’s only playoff invitee when seeding is announced later today.
The district, which doesn’t get a lot of respect from the state in most years, had all but guaranteed it wouldn’t get multiple playoff participants by going a combined 12-36 in the non-district schedule.
So Clovis and Hobbs, both 7-12 and 2-1 in district going into the Saturday tilt at Leon Williams Stadium, knew there was zero margin for error. And they kept it that way by severely limiting quality scoring chances.
Darrien Whiting ended up with the game-clinching goal, giving Clovis a 2-0 lead on a high-arcing shot from about 42 yards away that sailed well over the head of Eagles keeper Sergio Torres but just under the crossbar with 17:47 to go.
But with the defenses on their game, it looked like Josh Otero’s first-half goal might stand.
The play developed with junior Ever Dominguez getting a lane to the right of the goal, then deflecting a ball off of Torres. Otero met the carom and blasted the ball into a wide-open net.
Otero said the Wildcats work on that ricochet play all the time in practice.
“That’s what usually gets goalies,” Otero said. “It’s not the powerful shot, but just the soft touch. Darrien Whiting’s goal, that was the incredible one.”
Hobbs looked dead in the water right after Whiting struck, but a foul in the box gave the Eagles a penalty kick with 16:11 to play. Coach Jose Mares could pick anybody to take it, and he went to Torres, his trusted guy on penalty kicks.
“Being a goalie, he’s got the power,” Mares said, “(and) he’s willing to take the challenge.”
He stepped up big again, blasting his sixth penalty shot goal of the season to the left side past a diving James Smart.
Other than the penalty shot, where the goalie is almost always at a disadvantage, Smart got to loose balls before they became trouble and only had one other shot get by him, but that strike from Arturo Miranda didn’t get the shooter’s bounce after hitting the left crossbar.
“That was one of the best games the defense has played,” Smart said, “probably the best game all season.”
Clovis coach Greg Trujillo conceded the Wildcats won’t get higher than the 11th seed in the 12-team field, which is the result of their sub.-500 record. But he thinks the team is better than that, and could have a second-round chance with the right matchup.
“If we played defense like that, we would have had a lot more wins in Albuquerque,” Trujillo said. “We’ve been in games; eight of our losses were one goal.”