By Ryan Lengerich
Hatch Valley loves to air out the football — and they do it well.
Bears junior quarterback Brett Henson averages more than 390 yards per game passing on a team that scores 46 points-per-game.
Hatch Valley (8-2) will bring their aerial attack to Rattlers Stadium to meet the ball control Tucumcari (8-2) offense at 2 p.m. Saturday in the state semifinal.
Tucumcari is ranked No. 1 in Class AA by the Associated Press while Hatch is ranked No. 2. A late touchdown pushed the Rattlers past Tularosa in the quarterfinals while Hatch handled Zuni 74-18.
Hatch coach Charles Gleghorn said he began utilizing the passing style offense last season. Very few teams, he admits, throw as much as the Bears.
“That is not really the way we went about it — to try and be different,” Gleghorn said. “With the kids we have, that just kinds of matches our style.”
Rattlers coach Dub Smith said Hatch will put the ball in the air on about 99 percent of the plays, and he doesn’t expect anything to change Saturday. Smith compares Hatch to Raton, another passing team the Rattlers defeated on the road early this season.
While cornerbacks Andy Lau, Rob McClelland and Matt Braziel will be responsible for holding down Hatch receivers, Smith said success depends the linemen.
“I think the key is no matter how good your secondary is, you have to put pressure on the quarterback,” Smith said. “Our goal is to put some pressure on the him and make him throw some bad passes.”
Hatch is a young team with only four seniors. Gleghorn said he doesn’t expect his kids to be intimidated when playing the defending state champions on their home turf.
“We have had some big games with rivals down here,” Gleghorn said. “All year long the kids have gone into the game with the attitude that it is just a different color jersey.”
The Rattlers won home field advantage by way of a coin flip Sunday forcing Hatch to make the six hour drive to Tucumcari. Gleghorn said his players enjoy playing on the road, but he admitted that this is as far as he can remember traveling for a game.
As of Tuesday, final travel plans had not been set for the Bears, who may drive in Friday night or gameday morning.
Rattlers senior A.J. Molinas said home field advantage could play a factor.
“It is always good to play at home, we’re tough to beat at home and everybody knows that,” Molinas said. “I was very happy when I found out we play at home.”