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‘Dogs dominate in Belen

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Artesia brings first 5A competition to early end, 51-0

Every game on the schedule is important to a competitive team, but sometimes the levels of importance can vary.

For the Bulldogs, who take on a few top-tier Class 6A programs every season, those games could be considered a professional development day. Taking on larger-classification competition provides a chance to learn a little more about yourself and where you stand.

That the ‘Dogs spent the last two weeks dominating 6A opponents put them in a pretty good place in terms of both confidence and identifying key strengths and weaknesses. Then came Friday and their first business meeting against a fellow 5A squad.

And the dominance continued.

Artesia covered virtually all the bases Friday in their first big road test of the season in Belen, mercy-ruling the host Eagles by a final of 51-0. The Bulldogs held Belen to just eight yards of offense on the night while racking up 329 of their own, forced seven Eagle punts — five on three and out — and capped six of their eight offensive series with touchdowns.

They had three sacks in the contest for a combined lost-yardage total of 45, converted one of those sacks to points by way of a safety, recovered a fumbled kickoff to set up the game’s final score… and ultimately adjourned the meeting early with 2:12 still to go in the third quarter.

“I thought we travelled really well,” head coach Jeremy Maupin said Saturday. “We got out and played well on both sides of the ball.”

With a balanced mix of rushing and passing, the ‘Dogs moved quickly downfield from their own 40 on the game’s opening drive, breaching the Eagle red zone on a 24-yard pass from senior quarterback Nye Estrada to Izac Cazares. From the six, Estrada hit Juan Diego Duran for the score just over two minutes into the ballgame, and a kick fake saw holder Cazares pass to kicker Phillip Finley in the end zone for the conversion.

Belen was forced to punt near midfield on their first possession of the night but got the ball right back on an interception by safety Derian Rodriguez on Artesia’s first play from scrimmage. The Orange Crush quickly forced a three and out, however, and following a trio of consecutive passes to slot back Ethan Conn for a combined 67 yards and one to Cazares for 14, Estrada turned junior running back Frankie Galindo loose from the 20 to make it 15-0 Artesia with 2:15 remaining in the first.

The Eagles’ third punt of the night as the second quarter began was blocked by Grant Johnson — his second block of the season — to set the ‘Dogs up at the Belen 24-yard line, and Galindo logged his second score of the game from the six a minute and 12 seconds later.

A sack of Eagle quarterback Hunter Garcia for a whopping loss of 20 by DL Rafael Orozco forced another Belen punt, and the Bulldogs needed just two plays to make it 29-0, the latter a 46-yard catch-and-run between Estrada and Conn.

Belen’s next drive ended by way of one of the most unusual punt returns in memory. After the snap sailed over the head of Garcia — doing double duty as the Eagles’ punter — and into the end zone, the senior was able to collect the ball and get a kick away. It didn’t go far, however, and Bulldog linebacker Josiah Rodriguez was there to nab it at the six and charge directly into the end zone for the score.

Rodriguez wasn’t done making life difficult for Garcia, sacking the QB for a loss of nine in Belen’s first series of the second half, and — up 36-0 and with the 35-point mercy-rule clock ticking — Artesia was able to begin working their second-string offense into the fray following a three and out.

After stalling around the Eagle 20, the Bulldogs tried their first field goal of the season, a 37-yarder with 5:30 to go in the third. It sailed wide, but two plays later, junior LB Cody Johnson drove Garcia into the end zone for a 16-yard sack and a safety to boot.

Cazares then put Belen on their heels for good with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Porter Hardman with 3:25 to go in the third. The Eagles fumbled the ensuing kick at their own 13, and after the ball was pounced on by Jaden Hutson, Cazares ended the contest with a pair of runs for 18 yards, the final four taking him over the goal line with 2:12 on the third-quarter clock.

“Offensively, we played well,” Maupin said. “I thought Ethan Conn had another big game, and it was one of those things where we probably could’ve just handed the ball off to Frankie every play and scored, but we really wanted to work on some different things.

“I thought our option routes looked good, our second team was able to get out there and score two touchdowns, and it was overall just a good game. And then defensively, we didn’t give up a touchdown, held them to under 10 yards, which is always amazing, and played well again overall there also.”

The Eagles’ positive yardage came by way of their passing game, where Garcia was seven of nine for 19 yards on the night. Artesia’s trio of big sacks, however, combined with their overall dominance elsewhere, decimated Belen’s total, with -11 on the ground resulting in a final combined total of eight.

Estrada, meanwhile, was 12 of 15 for 203 yards, two touchdowns and a pick for Artesia through one half of play. Cazares went three of four for 36 yards and a TD in relief. Conn was 4-113 receiving, Cazares 4-61 and Duran 3-23.

On the turf, Galindo finished with 75 yards and two touchdowns on six carries to log the bulk of the Bulldogs’ 90 ground yards. Finley was 5-5 on PAT.

With the win, the ‘Dogs remain perfect on the season at 3-0 as they prepare for their second big 5A road challenge Friday in Deming. The Wildcats (2-1) suffered their first loss Friday at Wool Bowl in Roswell to Goddard, 35-12.

“I think Deming will be a good test for us, and I think they’ll be one of the better teams we’ve played so far,” said Maupin. “The big thing for us is to be sure we’re taking things a week at a time. We have to make sure our focus is on Deming and that we’re not looking past these guys.

“So we talked this morning about not looking at scores, comparing scores, that kind of thing, because we’re going to get everybody’s best game no matter what. I expect us to see the best Deming has to offer, and we need to give them the best we have to offer, too.”

Artesia- Juan Diego Duran 6-pass from Nye Estrada (Izac Cazares to Phillip Finley pass good), 9:39 Artesia- Frankie Galindo 20-run (Finley kick good), 2:15


Artesia- Galindo 6-run (Finley kick good), 10:48 Artesia- Ethan Conn 46-pass from Estrada (Finley kick good), 6:31 Artesia- Josiah Rodriguez 6-punt return (Finley kick good), 4:06


Artesia- Safety (Cody Johnson sack), 4:14 Artesia- Porter Hardman 13-pass from Cazares (Finley kick good), 3:25 Artesia- Cazares 4-run, 2:12


Artesia 9, Belen 2


Artesia 6-50; Belen 3-15


Artesia 1; Belen 1


Artesia 90; Belen -11


Artesia 239; Belen 19

TOTAL: Artesia 329; Belen 8


Artesia- Galindo 6-75; Cazares 2-18; Conn 1-4; Estrada 1-(-5); #41 1-(-2) Belen- Augustine Lopez 3-11; Damian Avila 1-5; Derian Rodriguez 7-5; Hunter Garcia 7-(-32)


Artesia- Estrada 12-15-203-2-1; Cazares 3-4-36-1-0 Belen- Garcia 7-9-19-0-0


Artesia- Conn 4-113; Cazares 4-61; Duran 3-23; Caleb Murray 1-21; Hardman 1-13; Diego Lopez 1-6; Kaden Beauregard 1-2 Belen- Rodriguez 2-9; Logan Gonzalez 2-8; Lopez 1-3; Dalton Golliheair 1-3; Daniel Chilimidos 1-(-4)

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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