This is the third article in a series leading up to San Juan Hills’ CIF-SS Division 4 championship game at Loyola of Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. Here is the first story on the Stallions seniors leading their bid for their first CIF-SS championship, and the second story on San Juan Hills’ aggressive defense being its calling card. Check back tomorrow and follow @SouthOCSports on Twitter for coverage leading up to, during and after Saturday’s game.
By Zach Cavanagh
San Juan Hills senior Joey Hobert’s game-breaking abilities are mesmerizing and omnipresent.
There hasn’t been a single second that the Washington State commit has been on the field for the Stallions that he hasn’t had an effect in San Juan Hills’ run to its first CIF-SS championship game. The Stallions play at Loyola of Los Angeles in the Division 4 title game on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Offensively, it’s evident with 1,176 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns on 73 receptions. That’s the stuff that shines brightest on the marquee.
Defensively, those abilities are highlighted with a team-high four interceptions, second-most tackles (95) and two interceptions returned for a touchdown, including a 101-yard runback in the CIF-SS quarterfinals against Hart.
“We have tremendous faith in Joey,” senior defensive end Tyler Wegis said. “Whenever there’s a big down, we always trust in Joey and time after time, he always pulls it off.”
However, it’s on special teams where his most underrated and possibly most important skill is showcased. It’s not his ability in the return game, although that’s also a special sight as shown when he nearly single-handedly beat Dana Hills with two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return for touchdown.
It’s Hobert’s skill as a punter that sets him apart from the handful of other do-it-all stars in high school football.
“Special teams will win the game,” Hobert said. “Teams have great offenses, great defenses, but not every team has great special teams. That’s where you can hurt teams the most.”
The Hobert family isn’t short on kicking ability either. Hobert’s mother, Danielle, played soccer at Sonoma State, and all of his sisters played soccer, including JSerra alum and CIF-SS champion Samantha, who is currently playing at Arizona State. Hobert’s father, Billy Joe, also punted while playing quarterback in college at Washington and in the NFL with the Raiders.
“He (Billy Joe) taught me when I was younger how to punt,” Hobert said, “and then I lost it for a little bit when I focused on DB and receiver. Last year, I got into it more again, and we started doing the rugby punt. I realize if I pin them deep, it’s good for us, in the end.”
Against Paramount in the Division 4 semifinals, Hobert put San Juan Hills in position for the lead and to potentially win the game in regulation with his punting and special teams abilities.
Midway through the third quarter, Hobert dropped a punt that set up Parmount in the shadow of its own goal posts at the three-yard line. The Stallions forced a three-and-out, and then Paramount punted to Hobert.
“Austin (Hogan) came up to me, and he goes, ‘Joey, we need something,’” Hobert said, “’Get me moving, get me motivated, let’s get this thing done.’ That ball punted, and I said I’m not going to get tackled right here.”
Hobert battled through multiple tackles to put the Stallions at the 12-yard line, and Hogan ran in a touchdown to go up, 14-7.
In the game’s final two minutes with San Juan Hills leading, 21-14, Hobert’s punt set up another long field for Paramount as the kick was placed out of bounds at the five-yard line. Paramount would eventually march 95 yards to tie the game before San Juan Hills won in OT, but Hobert did his job better than most kicking-only specialists.
“If I know I can pin them deep, that means I’m doing my job punting, and I know our defense is going to stop them,” Hobert said. “If I score, I know I did my job on offense, and that the rest of our team was there making their blocks and leading me. On the interceptions, I know they had to roll out because our defensive line was getting to them.”
Hobert is a leader in doing one’s job for the sake of the team. It’s something the entire San Juan Hills team has embraced to push to Saturday’s CIF-SS championship game.
Hobert also knows part of his job doesn’t always involve touching the ball, as it was on the game-winning two-point conversion against Paramount. Because of the threat of his game-breaking ability, Hobert is frequently and expertly used as a decoy. On the two-point conversion that beat Paramount, Hobert went in motion and ran a rub route to the right to pull the defense away from Jake Hall leaking out the left side for the game-winning catch.
Whether its on an 85-yard touchdown reception, a 101-yard interception return, a punt return, a kick return, a punt or even just being at the center of the opposing team’s game plan, Hobert will have an impact on Saturday’s CIF-SS Division 4 championship.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.