Coming up short of Hobbs last week wasn’t of much concern to the Bulldog soccer team.
Yes, they’d have preferred a win. Any time you can steal one on the road from a more experienced Class 5A opponent, it’s a bonus. But the ‘Dogs were more concerned with Saturday’s home opener at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex and their first go-round with a same-class opponent.
It was likely of slight concern, then, when the Pintos jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute of the game.
The goal was just one of those things that happens sometimes. The ball made its way into the box, where it proceeded to bounce up and down vertically before making its way just over the head of Artesia keeper Sebastian Gonzalez. Moriarty senior Jahkeem Graham was in the right place at the right time to tap it into the open net.
But while the turn of events was unexpected, Artesia head coach Phillip Jowers was unfazed. He simply had faith in his team. And it wound up being justified, as the boys in orange came from behind in the second half to log their first win of the season, 2-1.
“I never thought we wouldn’t come back,” Jowers said Saturday. “I knew we would come back. It was just a matter of how soon. I definitely didn’t want to take it down to the last 10 minutes, though, so I’m glad it happened sooner rather than later.”
Contributing to that “just a matter of time” mentality was the fact that the ‘Dogs were dominating possession. The Pintos’ goal came on one of their few trips to the southern half of the field. On the other end, Moriarty keeper Isaac Dominguez likely felt like he was in front of a firing squad.
Artesia sent shot after shot toward the net in the opening 40 minutes, but they just kept missing the mark. Moises Corza sent one just long across the box, hard off the post, just wide. Ethan Bunt had a shot saved, Luis Torres just missed the mark, and a bullet by Othoniel Alvidrez sailed just over the top right corner.
“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” Jowers said of the Bulldogs’ 15 shots on goal in the game. “Probably half of those or more were within inches of going in. But like Coach [Zane] Brooks told the guys, ‘Great teams find a way to win.’ And we found a way to win today.”
It took a few more near misses, but 13 minutes into the second half, the ‘Dogs finally found the net on a shot by Zane Baize off an assist from Torres. Ten minutes later, Torres would punch the go-ahead goal in from near the top of the box on a pass from Alvidrez.
“Trying to catch up is always stressful, but once we scored the equalizing goal, I think it kind of changed the morale,” said Jowers. “I think the boys were initially shocked by that goal they scored in the first half, and so it took longer than it probably should have to tie it up. But once we did, everybody seemed to kind of settle down.
“I think if we’d gotten just one of those shots we took in the first five or 10 minutes of the game to go, the floodgates would’ve opened. But we did what we had to do, and I think a lot of it was us being fitter than Moriarty; that showed in probably the last 20 or 30 minutes of the second half.”
Logging the season’s first win also tends to have a calming effect, and the ‘Dogs will now be looking to carry that confidence into a busy coming week. They’ll head to Roswell Tuesday for a 6 p.m. game against the Class 5A Coyotes before heading to Los Alamos Friday and Saturday for the Louie Cernicek Tournament.
Jowers and Co. were also pleased to see their JV team pick up a big win over Moriarty Saturday, 4-0.
“Now we’ve got the first game of the season and the first home game of the season out of the way, and we can move on,” said the coach. “I think a lot of the stuff we’re looking for will come as we settle into the season.”