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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

‘Dogs set off Homecoming crowd

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Artesia boys blank Lovington 44-0 in solid all-around outing

The Lovington Wildcats had spent the past two weeks making teams sorry they’d scheduled them for Homecoming. And nothing would’ve pleased them more Friday than to add a third to that list.

But Bulldog Bowl was packed to the rafters with alumni, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles for a seat under the Friday night lights with family and old friends. The Pride of the Pecos Valley was playing, the Victory Bell was ringing, and the Bulldog football team wasn’t about to let the ‘Cats crash the party.

With an all-around solid performance in all phases of the game, the ‘Dogs ended Lovington’s spoiler streak with a 44-0 shutout, improving to 6-0 in their penultimate regular-season outing.

“I was excited about the way we played,” head coach Jeremy Maupin said Saturday. “We decided we needed a little spark — after playing the way we did against Cleveland, just kind of a reminder to not have a letdown and that you should be able to get after certain teams if you’re playing well. So we busted out the orange pants for last night.

“The guys were real excited about those. It was good motivation, and I think that showed last night.”

The fully orange-clad Bulldogs wasted no time establishing control in the contest, needing just 45 seconds to score the game’s first touchdown and never looking back. With the exception of a pair of penalty-induced punts, the starting offense scored at will, the defense added four turnovers to three forced punts and a pair of turnovers on downs, and the special teams contributed a TO of their own and optimal field position throughout the evening.

Artesia’s first offensive series covered just 28 yards following a solid return by Izac Cazares and subsequent facemasking penalty against the Wildcats. Junior running back Frankie Galindo cut that distance to 24 before senior quarterback Nye Estrada found junior slot Ethan Conn in the end zone for an over-the-shoulder catch that — following a successful conversion run by Cazares — put the ‘Dogs up 8-0 less than a minute into the game.

The two squads then traded punts before — on third and one from the Lovington 31-yard line — Wyatt Gomez’s fifth pass attempt of the night was snatched out of the air by Artesia safety Jesse Armendariz, who pitched the ball to cornerback Phillip Finley for extra yards to set the ‘Dogs up at the Wildcat 27.

Two plays later, Galindo was zig-zagging his way to paydirt from the 22 to give Artesia a 15-point lead with 6:30 still to play in the first quarter.

The boys in orange would leave the ‘Cats no time to catch their breath before they were storming the end zone again.

After the ensuing kickoff hit the turf and bounced high over the head of Lovington’s return specialist, junior Haden Harcrow was there to pounce on the ball at the Wildcat 14. Galindo would leg it out from there, plowing over a defender on his way over the goal line to make it 22-0.

The Orange Crush would then sandwich an Artesia punt with two more turnovers: a fumble recovery by Grant Johnson at the Lovington 41 and a Jarren Wadkins interception in Artesia territory.

And all of that in the first quarter alone.

The ‘Dogs spent the remainder of the opening 12 minutes driving to the Wildcat 10-yard line before kicking off the second quarter with another touchdown run by Galindo to make it an even 30-0 following a conversion run by Diego Lopez. The junior RB would log one more 14-yard score before the break to put Artesia up 37-0 and set the mercy-rule clock in motion with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

With the clock still ticking, the third quarter went by in a flash.

Johnson blocked a Wildcat punt deep in their own territory to set the offense up at the 32, and — following a 24-yard scamper by Galindo — Estrada would round out the 44-0 final four minutes into the quarter on an eight-yard pass to Cazares. The ‘Cats’ final possession of the third ended in a TOD at the Artesia 38, and the ‘Dogs began heavily working their bench into the game as the fourth quarter began.

Their two drives there would end in a partially-blocked 34-yard field goal attempt and a punt, while in between, the Crush posted one final INT, courtesy of Harcrow. Lovington appeared poised to prevent the shutout in the final seconds, driving to a first-and-goal at the Bulldog five, but a trio of incomplete passes kept the defense’s scoreless effort intact as time ran out.

“The shutout on defense was big,” Maupin said. “That’s always hard to do, especially against a team like Lovington. They score a lot of points and can move the ball fast and get some things done, but our defense is just playing really well.

“I thought they gave us a couple of different looks early that slowed us down a little from what we normally want to do. I think we were just overthinking some things, but once we kind of got rolling, we were hard to stop. Frankie ran the ball really well, Nye did a lot of good things, and it was just a good team effort. We got the big turnover in the kicking game, some interceptions, a fumble — a lot of things went our way.”

The Bulldogs finished with 321 yards of offense on the game to Lovington’s 207. Galindo logged 146 of Artesia’s 206 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Estrada was 10 of 16 for 98 of the team’s total 115 passing yards and two TDs. Cazares and Conn led the receiving corps, 3-54 and 3-31, respectively, and Finley was 4-4 in PATs.

The Wildcats picked up the bulk of their yards — 189 — through the air, with Gomez finishing 21 of 40 with a trio of picks. Elijah Rivero was 7-89 receiving and Cesar Gonzalez 5-45.

Next up for the unbeaten Bulldogs will be their final lengthy road trip of the regular season in their last pre-district bout. They’ll head to Santa Teresa to take on the 0-5 Desert Warriors at 7 p.m. Friday. Santa T. has thus far fallen to Goddard (49-0), Lovington (58-7), Cobre (34-12), Valencia (51-13) and El Paso Mountain View (33-0).

“When we added these guys to the schedule, they’d been in the playoffs for several years, had a chance to win their district every year with Deming,” said Maupin. “We’ve just caught them on a couple of back-to-back flat years here lately, but the main thing for us is we’ve got to get better. We have to get better in practice, in games, and when we play teams that maybe aren’t quite as good as us. We have to come out and dominate them. We can’t play down to their level.

“This is our last tune-up before district, so we want to make sure we finish Season No. 1 as best and as fast as possible. Then we can get some rest and get ready to start Season No. 2. So the message is pretty clear: We have to play well, execute, and make sure we end this first season on a positive note.”

FIRST QUARTER

Artesia- Ethan Conn 24-pass from Nye Estrada (Izac Cazares run good), 11:15 Artesia- Frankie Galindo 22-run (Phillip Finley kick good), 6:30 Artesia- Galindo 14-run (Finley kick good), 6:19

SECOND QUARTER

Artesia- Galindo 10-run (Diego Lopez run good), 11:54 Artesia- Galindo 14-run (Finley kick good), 8:04

THIRD QUARTER

Cazares 8-pass from Estrada (Finley kick good), 8:09

RUSHING

Artesia- Galindo 15-146; Cazares 3-35; Bryce Parra 3-34; Jett Whitmire 1-(-1); Estrada 1-(-8) Lovington- Alec Holguin 5-11; Demarcus Thompson 1-7; Jayden Garza 1-2; Wyatt Gomez 2-(-2)

PASSING

Artesia- Estrada 10-16-98-2-0; Cazares 2-3-11-0-0; Derrick Warren 1-3-6-0-0 Lovington- Gomez 21-40-189-0-3

RECEIVING

Artesia- Cazares 3-54; Conn 3-31; Trent Egeland 2-18; Jack Byers 1-6; Lopez 1-6; Matthew Saiz 1-6; Crecencio Cuellar 1-(-1); Galindo 1-(-5) Lovington- Elijah Rivero 7-89; Cesar Gonzalez 5-45; Thompson 3-24; Anson Marquez 4-24; Holguin 1-9; Zadrick Betancourt 1-(-2)

1D

Artesia 10; Lovington 11

PEN

Artesia 9-75; Lovington 3-30

TO

Artesia 0; Lovington 5

RUSH

Artesia 206; Lovington 18

PASS

Artesia 115; Lovington 189

TOTAL

Artesia 321; Lovington 207

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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