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‘Dogs set to host Hobbs in 2023 home opener

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A funny thing about really good season openers is that it’s difficult to nail down exactly what a team could do better in Week Two.

To be sure, there are always corrections to be made and rust spots to clean. The 2023 Bulldogs are as pragmatic as they come, and they know there’s ample room for improvement, even over their 55-7 performance against the Class 6A Carlsbad Cavemen in last week’s Eddy County War.

The primary correction in need of making over last year’s outing with 6A Hobbs on the road is simple: This time around, the ‘Dogs would like a 2-0 start. The 2022 edition of the series saw an excellent first half by Artesia fade down the stretch as the bout devolved into an offensive marathon the Eagles took by a final of 69-48.

But these aren’t last year’s Eagles. They aren’t last year’s Bulldogs, either.

“They’re not quite the team they were a year ago,” Artesia head coach Jeremy Maupin said Wednesday of Hobbs. “Last year, you could just tell, ‘Oh, man, these guys are going to go far in the playoffs.’ It’s not the exact same magic you saw last year, but you see athletes and you see guys that get after it, so we know we’re going to have to play well.”

Just as the ‘Dogs did at Ralph Bowyer Stadium, the Eagles essentially had their way in Clovis, picking up a 41-13 win that saw a fairly balanced offensive attack of 172 receiving yards and 208 yards rushing, each corps with three touchdowns apiece.

Junior quarterback Brock Beaty, a Carlsbad transfer, was 12 of 22 passing, hitting senior wideout Jeremiah Jaquez six times for 104 yards and two TDs. Senior Saul Armendariz led the ground game with 13 carries for 126 yards and a score.

“They’re a good football team,” said Maupin. “They got after Clovis pretty good last week. They graduated a lot of guys from last year, so they’re kind of a new team, though. I think they only have two guys back on offense and three on defense.

“They also got the quarterback transfer from Carlsbad, who ended up winning the starting job. He’s a good player, and then they have some speed out at the receiver position, and they’re big on the lines. That’s kind of what Coach [Ken] Stevens has talked a lot about in the offseason is how big they are in those places.”

As for the Bulldogs, they put their best foot forward in terms of season openers last week.

Senior quarterback Nye Estrada was 15 of 19 for 320 yards and four touchdowns on the night, with Ethan Conn going 5-113 receiving with three TDs. Jesse Leroch and Izac Cazares were both solid on the ground to keep the Cavemen honest, and the Orange Crush defense was stingy to say the least.

The boys in orange have been grateful for some cooler temperatures this week, though their practice session Monday was cut a bit short by the weather.

“We had a good practice yesterday, though, and good special teams this morning, and [Wednesday’s] kind of when we put it all together, so we’ll see this afternoon,” Maupin said. “But I like our game plan, I like the things we’ve been doing, and I think we have some ways to kind of mess with them a little bit.”

Overall, the ‘Dogs will prepping for essentially the same thing they always are: their opponent’s best effort. They’ll be ready to give theirs as well before the first home crowd of the season at Bulldog Bowl.

“The biggest thing we’ve been telling them all week is just to make sure we’re preparing for people’s best games,” said Maupin. “I think people always play us well. Two years ago when [Hobbs] came down here and we beat them in the Bowl, I think, just from talking to their coaches, that they didn’t expect that to happen.

“So the message this week in Hobbs is probably that they have to be able to go win in places like Bulldog Bowl, in that kind of environment, and play well. So we’re going to have to play really well and really consistently and keep our goal of getting a little bit better each week in mind. But we got off to a great start last week, so hopefully we just continue that.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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