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‘Dogs pluck Eagles 42-6

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Hobbs has no answer for Artesia run game, defense in Bulldogs’ home opener at Bowl

Artesia head coach Jeremy Maupin had a particular challenge for his offense this week heading into their second consecutive game against a Class 6A opponent.

“What’s been hard against some of these 6A teams the last couple of years is that we haven’t been able to run the ball well,” Maupin said Saturday. “So literally on the board last Saturday, I just put, ‘How can we run the ball against Hobbs?'”

Ask and ye shall receive.

The ‘Dogs solved their rushing conundrum and then some Friday in their home opener against Hobbs at Bulldog Bowl, matching their passing game before churning even more turf for good measure. When all was said and done, Artesia’s ground game did the bulk of the damage against the Eagles, accounting for 293 of their 541 total offensive yards on the night and four of their six touchdowns.

“I was excited,” said Maupin. “We came out and really just out-physicaled them. They have some big old linebackers and things like that, and last year, they reduced us to being pretty one-dimensional. This year, the goal was to fix that, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as dominant as it was, but it was definitely fun to see.”

Leading the charge for the Big Orange offense Friday were senior and junior running backs Jesse Leroch and Frankie Galindo.

Leroch carried the ball eight times for 68 yards before coming up limping at the end of a 47-yard run in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Galindo, meanwhile, stepped in and stepped up in a big way, finishing 13-183 with four touchdowns in addition to going 3-39 receiving with a fifth TD.

The ‘Dogs put their multi-dimensional offense on display in more ways than one in the contest. Hobbs keyed in on junior slot Ethan Conn, who was 5-112 receiving with three TDs last week against Carlsbad. Conn still logged a short-yardage touchdown reception Friday, but senior quarterback Nye Estrada was able to work Juan Diego Duran and Matthew Saiz into the arsenal, with the pair going 6-81 and 6-41 receiving, respectively.

Estrada finished 17 of 26 for 194 yards and two touchdowns, with junior QB Izac Cazares (2-2-52-0-0) and punter Diego Wesson (1-1-2-0-0) contributing the remainder of 248 passing yards on the night.

On the other side of the ball, the Orange Crush defense delivered another dominant performance, limiting the Eagles to just one fourth-quarter touchdown and 288 total yards.

Hobbs was held to 122 yards in the opening half as the Crush forced a pair of interceptions, a turnover on downs, and two three-and-outs. They’d pick up where they left off in the third quarter with two TODs and a third pick.

The Bulldogs logged six tackles for a loss on the night and had five stops for no gain.

“I think we missed 37 tackles last year against these guys,” Maupin said. “So we definitely did a lot better job this year. Coach [Jourdan] Rodriguez does a great job of getting those guys ready every week, and we’re really happy with where we are there.”

As was the case last week in Carlsbad, it was the special teams that got the momentum swinging Artesia’s way to start the ballgame. Hobbs fumbled the ball attempting to run the starburst, and David Hammond was there to pounce on it to set the ‘Dogs up at the Eagles 25-yard line.

Hobbs’ sizable defense would stiffen from there, however, to force a turnover on downs at the five. But the Crush would return the favor, shutting the Eagles down at the Artesia 22, and the offense found its rhythm in the next drive.

With the ‘Dogs alternating Leroch runs with passes from Estrada to Duran, Artesia moved to midfield before covering 41 yards in one fell swoop by way of a double pass between Estrada, Cazares and Duran. Estrada then hit Conn from four yards out to put the hosts on the board, 7-0, with 3:04 to go in the first after a partially blocked PAT by Phillip Finley made it over the bar.

Following a Hobbs punt, the Bulldogs were briefly stymied by a pick in the end zone on an underthrown ball, but once again, the Crush would respond in kind. Jarren Wadkins made a leaping snag of a Brock Beaty pass near midfield, and Artesia needed just two plays to score from there.

Leroch’s 47-yard run took them inside the Eagle 10, and Galindo covered the final seven yards with two minutes off the second-quarter clock. Finley then hit Jack Byers, who used one hand to haul in the pass in the end zone, for the conversion to make it 15-0 Bulldogs.

Another big INT by Hammond — his fourth of the season — cut Hobbs’ next series short in the Artesia red zone, and although the ‘Dogs would have to punt after a holding penalty, they’d still get the final word in the first half.

After an Eagle three-and-out, the Bulldogs marched from their own 19 to the Hobbs 29 before — with two seconds to spare — Estrada spotted Galindo in the end zone. The junior sidestepped his defenders and planted his feet just inside the line for the score to send the boys in orange up the ramp with a 22-0 advantage in hand.

Artesia picked right up where they’d left off to start the third, covering 65 yards on four plays, the last of which saw Galindo keep his feet through an initial swipe by a Hobbs defender, then bolt 40 yards untouched to paydirt with 10:49 on the clock.

The teams then twice traded turnovers on downs before a Finley interception in the end zone ensured another Eagle shutout in the third. The Artesia offense, meanwhile, had just enough time to deal another blow, and it was a big one: a 68-yard touchdown run by Galindo, who slithered through the line before embarking on another unimpeded dash down the home sideline, escorted by Diego Lopez, who dealt the final block.

Up 35-0, the mercy-rule clock was set into motion, but Hobbs was able to log its biggest play of the night — a 49-yard run by Omarrion Kennedy — in the final seconds of the third. Starting from the Artesia 21, they were finally able to end their offensive drought on a pass from Beaty to Larry Salcido 14 seconds into the fourth. They were unable to get the snap down for the PAT, however, and a Plan B pass attempt failed to leave the score at 35-6.

The Bulldogs then reinstated the running clock just under a minute later on a 24-yard Galindo run that rounded out the final, 42-6. The two teams punted away their final full possessions before time ran out on Hobbs at midfield.

“What we want is to get a little better every week, and I think we accomplished that,” Maupin said. “We were able to add some new things. We dealt with an injury with a ‘next guy up’ mentality, and we ran the ball well. Our offensive line is also playing really well. We’re playing several guys in there just to kind of get some experience, so that’s been good.

“We still need to get better with throwing the ball vertically. We missed some opportunities underthrowing the ball on one side and overthrowing on the other, and we had another interception in the end zone, so we have to figure some of those things out. And then defensively, when you get that many turnovers every week, it’s hard to lose. We’re riding high right now in that area, we just have to make sure we don’t get complacent and keep it up every week.”

The Bulldogs (2-0) will now prepare for their first Class 5A competition of the season, along with their first two lengthy road trips of 2023. They’ll head to Belen this coming Friday to take on the 0-2 Eagles, who’ve come up short thus far of Los Lunas (56-6) and Manzano (16-7 in a weather-shortened contest Friday). The ‘Dogs will then go west to Deming, where the Wildcats are currently 2-0 after 56-6 and 33-6 wins over Del Norte and Organ Mountain, respectively.

“We’ve got to get ready to travel the next couple of weeks, so that’s going to be the big message this week,” Maupin said. “Both of these next two teams have been playoff teams the last couple of years, so it’ll be good to see somebody in our own class and who, when you line up with them, you’re a little more evenly sized. It should be a fun few weeks.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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