LAS CRUCES – Centennial head coach Aaron Ocampo knew he had to reach into his bag of tricks if his Hawks had a chance to beat Cleveland on Saturday afternoon at the Field of Dreams.
Centennial didn’t hesitate to cross the line against the storm in the Hawks’ 49-21 loss. Onside kicks, the pursuit of the fourth down and misleading games on kickoff returns were all in Ocampo’s arsenal for the season opener. After three touchdowns at halftime, it was almost like they had to be.
You weren’t enough.
How it happened
The Hawks didn’t hesitate to be hyper-aggressive from the start.
A shaky onside kick at the opening prelude, which Cleveland immediately regained, made some Centennial fans scratch their heads and shout, “What are we doing here?”
After the Storm scored six games later, it became clear what Ocampo was doing there.
Ocampo knew Centennial needed to force turnover and find ways to keep the Storm’s explosive offensive off the field as the Hawks’ defenses almost failed to stop Cleveland’s offensive steamroller on Saturday afternoon. The Storm scored on every offensive possession in the first half – save for a one-play drive with 30 seconds left of the first half – and kept the Hawks from building a consistent rhythm offensively.
But that doesn’t mean the Hawks weren’t competitive.
Centennial responded to Cleveland’s 14-0 lead with their own touchdown with 58 seconds to go in the first quarter to draw within a point and immediately start a penalty shoot-out with the defending champion. The two teams exchanged points on the next three possession of the ball before Centennial brought the ball down at 28:14 just under four minutes before half-time.
Then there was a disaster.
The Hawks, who got the kick-off in the second half, could have reduced the lead to 28:21 at half time and possibly equalized the game at 28 in first possession of the second half. But instead, after consecutive negative games, Cleveland’s pass rush forced Centennial senior quarterback Ian Lopez to make a bad throw when hit.
Cleveland’s defensive back couldn’t have asked for a better gift. The Storm went into the end zone to take a 35-14 halftime lead and never looked back. Cleveland was within the 10-yard line for Centennial’s first possession of the second half and ticked two more touchdowns to seal the win.
The stars of Saturday
Lopez and junior running back Mikah Gutierrez were responsible for all three Hawks touchdowns on Saturday afternoon and slightly led Centennial on the overall offensive. Second year quarterbacks Elijah Brody and junior Evan Wysong as well as senior running backs Lucious Dickson and junior Josh Perry led the way for Cleveland.
What would be said
Ocampo’s thoughts on the game: “Of course we lost here. Cleveland is a good football team. To beat such a good football team, you have to play flawlessly. They have size and speed everywhere. It’s kind of amazing how they just charge up with guys who are good athletes, but they are a team that many teams in this state can beat and I think they are a team that we can play a lot better with and We can get into the fourth quarter and get into a dogfight. But many of our youth showed today. … It felt like it was going to be one of those games where we can keep up with the results and that just didn’t happen when we missed some games. It was a challenging game for us, but we can learn from it and get a lot better. We have a young team. We’re going to get a lot better this year. “
Ocampo’s message to his team after a blowout loss: “That’s why we have high school sports, isn’t it? To see how they react to adversity. It is just as important to face adversity as it is to succeed. It’s a good thing when you play a team like that in the opening game. We find out what we are about. We could have played a smaller opponent and been successful and felt good, but we couldn’t really have gotten any better. We really need to improve. We have a good attitude on this team, so I’m sure we’ll work hard on Monday and prepare for our next opponent. “
Ocampo on aggressive tendencies: “We wanted to be aggressive. We talked about that. We don’t have a kicker that can kick deep so we’ll be kicking onsides sometimes. We wanted to come out in the first game, we play against a really good team like Cleveland, we knew we would need extra sales. We didn’t get any of these. We got a couple of the onsides, so we’ll probably mess it up even more as the season progresses. “
Ocampo on what he learned about his team: “I felt like our kids played hard. I think we stayed in the game offensively. At 14-0 it looked pretty bad at the beginning, but we stayed in the game and continued to play hard. We’ve had some good things. We scored two goals in the first half and finally stopped defensively at the end of the game, but we have to cover a lot defensively. They looked like they were definitely faster than us today, and for that we have to be ready to play faster to prepare for the next opponent. “
Centennial returns to the Field of Dreams against West Mesa the next Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., while Cleveland faces Franklin in the Storm’s home opener.