Artesia and NMMI may be a Class 4A/Class 1A-3A matchup, but the Bulldogs know better than to overlook them.
The Colts have earned plenty of wins over higher-class opponents over the years. Prior to last year, the ‘Dogs were in the midst of a two-season losing streak against them. But the Artesia boys turned that particular table Tuesday in Roswell, besting the Colts by a final of 3-1.
“I’m pretty pleased,” head coach Phillip Jowers said Tuesday. “They’re No. 1 in their class and No. 7 across all classes, so that was a good win for us.”
The majority of the first half was a defensive battle, though both squads had their chances. A shot off a direct free kick pass went just wide for Artesia, and Bulldog keeper Sebastian Gonzalez had several solid blocks and saves.
But with around three minutes to go in the opening 40, the ‘Dogs finally hit the mark on a bullet into the near side of the net from outside the box by sophomore Moises Corza, and the goal — combined with the 1-0 halftime lead — would rejuvenate them for most of the second half.
With Gonzalez and his defense continuing to fend off Colt attempts, the Bulldogs were able to pad their lead in the 18th minute when a long shot by Damian Lopez was blocked by the diving NMMI keeper but Diego Zamarron was there for the rebound.
Around four minutes later, Lopez would get his turn, heading a cross from Zane Baize into the net to put Artesia up 3-0.
It was solid, opportunistic offense, taking advantage of the openings presented, and although the ‘Dogs spent the remainder of the game on the defensive — with Colt senior David Portugal managing to get the ball in the middle between two sets of Artesia defenders for a goal in the 25th minute — it ultimately served them well in the 3-1 win.
“Those last 20 minutes, we were definitely surviving,” Jowers said. “That’s the only thing I wasn’t pleased with, but we can solve that. We just need a little more composure in those moments. We’re not used to being up; we’re used to having to fight from behind, so that feeling of being up and holding a lead is still a little foreign to them at the moment.
“But our guys played well, and it’s always fun playing a John Barbour team, win or lose. He’s an incredible coach. I’m pretty sure he’s been coaching for 20 years now, and he’s one of the very few boys’ coaches in the state who’s been doing it that long.”
With the victory, the Bulldogs got back on the plus side at 4-3-1 as they prepare for a rematch with Ruidoso at 6 p.m. Thursday on the road. Artesia defeated the Warriors 2-0 Sept. 7 at The Mack and will return there Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against Class 5A Clovis.