Things are starting to sort themselves out with the season half over. Hagerman, Dexter and Roswell have earned a respite this week. The marquee matchup this week has the potential to be a shootout. Goddard will be on the road for the second week in a row, traveling to Brian Urlacher Stadium to take on the Lovington Wildcats.
Lovington is coming off a loss on the road to Artesia, 59-52. What is so hurtful to the Wildcats is that they had to come from behind all game in a track meet. Lovington gave up the final touchdown on the last play of the game as time ran out.
For Goddard, a loss at Los Lunas dropped them in the rankings to the No. 3 team in 5A, behind Roswell and Los Lunas.
This game will come down to whether Goddard can slow a fast-break offense down. Wildcats’ quarterback Casey Perez is a Player of the Year candidate for Lovington.
Perez is able to take what the defense gives him. He is able to run the ball between the tackles and has the speed to get to the outside. The thing that sets him apart this season is his arm strength. Perez can throw on the run — running to his left on a roll-out or to his right — with no difference in his velocity on his throws.
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One of the most impressive things about Perez is he is able to throw the ball backing up and throw the ball off the wrong foot and still get a completion. Goddard’s defensive backs will have to stay with the Lovington receivers during a scramble drill. Perez will look for Ayden Garcia, Isaac Hinson and Tayten Hilliard. One of the things that sets this trio apart is they block for each other on the bubble screens.
Lovington runs the spread offense and they throw a lot of bubble screens to their wide receivers. They will also run the ball up the middle with their running back, Brian Tapia, and Kalob Franco for a change of pace. One of the Wildcats’ strengths is their offensive line. Three-year starter Lucas Tarin starts at center and was all-state last year. Carlos Delarosa protects Perez’ blindside at right tackle — he is also a three-year starter. Lovington has another all-state starter in Alex Tramell, who is a two-year starter at guard, and the other guard is Justin Hazel.
Lovington’s Achilles heel is their defense. They will run a 43 defense.
Lovington’s defense continues to look for Tarin and Delarosa to apply pressure from their defensive end spots. Enrique Gonzalez and Tres Arreola and Marcus Rodriguez will have their hands full at the linebacker spot as they try to stop Goddard’s running game. Look for Lovington to cheat their defensive backs, Julian Fuentes and Tayten Hilliard, to move closer to the line of scrimmage to help try and stop the run.
In the last two years, they’ve had trouble stopping teams on the ground. Because of this, their offense has to outscore a lot of teams, which could hurt them come playoff time.
Goddard has a big challenge in front of them. Lovington’s offense is much like Los Lunas on offense, and a lot like Artesia, which Godard will see later this season. Goddard has to get back to playing Goddard football and shorten the game. Goddard needs to run the ball up the middle with a big dose of Sammy Zaragoza and Robert Aragon, with a sprinkle of Hunter Beene and some other backs.
Goddard knows Lovington has trouble stopping the run and looks for them to stack the box with eight defenders. When Lovington coach Anthony Gonzales does that, look for Goddard coach Chris White to make the adjustment and go over the top with speedster Nate Stone. Look for special teams to play a factor in the game. Kickoff returner Connor Villalpando has breakaway speed and can take it the distance.
Big Blue has to be Big Blue and get pressure on Perez. The defense has to corral him from the outside and force him up the middle when he is looking for a receiver. Every time Perez runs the ball, he has to be hit and hit hard by Beene, Ray Downs, Timothy Burrell and Zaragoza, with the rest of the defense.
Goddard cannot get caught looking ahead to the undefeated Santa Teresa, 5-0. Santa Teresa has a bye this week and historically has had trouble with the physical Rockets. Two years ago, Lovington beat Goddard, 35-28.
This is a rematch of week three with Mesilla Valley Christian. In that game, the Warriors took it out on Mesilla for homecoming, 56-6. This is a good week for Gateway Christian to pick up their second victory of the season. This game should be another mercy-rule game as well.
Dexter, Hagerman and Roswell all have byes this week.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.