LAS CRUCES – Penalties, officiating disputes, injuries and turnovers.
None of them could keep Centennial from beating Alamogordo 42-17 for its second straight district championship.
Centennial (7-1, 4-0) blew by Alamogordo (4-5, 1-3) Saturday afternoon to clinch the Class 6A District 3/4 title with one week left in the regular season, all but ensuring the Hawks will receive one of the state’s top playoff seeds. Centennial rode three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown from quarterback Daniel Hernandez and two rushing touchdowns from Mikah Gutierrez to its fifth straight win.
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“I’m proud of our guys. Obviously we have one more game, and it’s a big one in our rivalry game against (Las) Cruces (High), so we want to finish the deal against them,” Ocampo said. “… I’m proud of our guys, but I want to see our guys step up and play a good game. I’m excited for that game (next week) and excited for winning a district championship.”
The Hawks led 14-0 after a first quarter that took 45 real-time minutes and 28-7 at halftime. The two teams combined for more than 15 first-half penalties and took nearly 90 minutes to reach halftime, although it did little to deter centennial – aside from creating two antsy fanbases. Centennial also fumbled twice in the first half, but Alamogordo was unable to score points off either turnover.
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Centennial only failed to score on three possessions in the first half. The Hawks’ two scores came with 3:26 left in the third quarter on a 15-yard designed quarterback run and on a 20-yard pass with 5:09 left in the fourth. Alamogordo’s only second-half points came on a 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and a 20-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.
“Our kids are resilient. We got a stop on fourth down (in the first quarter) and it wasn’t close and they gave them the first down, and our kids came back fired up and ready to play. That’s good, that mindset to fight through adversity,” Ocampo said. “They ran the ball really well on us today. They came out and did some new formations and surprised us a little bit, and defensively they caused a turnover and then we caused our own turnover. It was a weird game, but I’m Glad we came out on top.”
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The win is Centennial’s fifth district championship in its 10-year history and its second straight district title. Centennial has not lost a district game since the delayed 2020 covid season and has won its last eight league games. It also marks the first time Centennial has won district championships in consecutive years in its school’s history.
However, Ocampo said the Hawks gave little thought to playing for a district title heading into the week.
“We didn’t talk anything about playing for a district championship. We didn’t say one word about it this week. I just now told them that they won district,” Ocampo said after the game. “They seemed excited, but I think they all want to play well next week.”
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Centennial takes on Las Cruces next Friday at 7 pm at the Field of Dreams in the regular season finale. Centennial won last year’s regular season matchup 42-41 in a thriller but lost to the Bulldawgs in the playoffs’ quarterfinal round.
Centennial’s district championship all but assures the Hawks will receive one of the state’s top seeds and could potentially earn the state’s No. 1 overall seed. The Hawks are in contention with La Cueva and Cleveland for the top spots but are currently ranked No. 1 by Maxpreps.
Next week’s game could also decide whether or not Las Cruces sneaks into the postseason.
“I think it’s a huge rivalry (next week against Las Cruces). I don’t want to compare it to any other rivalries, but it’s a huge rivalry. I don’t think they like us. We know that they’re a big rival,” Ocampo said. “We’re excited to play that game, and I’m sure it’s going to be fun to play that game.”
Stephen Wagner is a sports reporter for the Las Cruces Sun News. He can found on Twitter at @stephenwag22 and reached at [email protected]