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Friday, June 14, 2024

‘Dogs to close out regular season on the road vs. Santa Teresa

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The end of the first season always has a different feel to it.

The longstanding rivalry games are in the books for another year. The Homecoming festivities have come and gone. And thoughts are beginning to turn to district play and the playoffs looming beyond.

All of that can become a distraction in its own right if a team isn’t careful. But with the Bulldogs’ final regular-season bout coming in the form of a lengthy road trip to unfamiliar confines, head coach Jeremy Maupin and his staff are taking advantage of the situation by ensuring their squad is treating Friday’s game against Santa Teresa like a playoff simulation.

“I think it’s going to be similar to a first-round playoff game in some sense,” Maupin said Wednesday. “You don’t know if they’ve been preparing for you all season or what they’ve been doing, so we have to make sure we travel well and get off the bus well.”

The ‘Dogs — as is traditional with their loaded schedule — have had a regular season chock full of big games to this point. After blowing out Class 6A Carlsbad in the Eddy County War to kick off their 2023 campaign, they proceeded to make short work of 6A Hobbs and 5A Belen and Deming as well.

Then came the showdown everyone was waiting for Sept. 15 at Bulldog Bowl, when the 5A top-ranked Bulldogs squared off with the 6A No. 1 Cleveland Storm. The boys in orange sent lightning bolts through the state with their 36-34 win, their first in the course of the seven-game series.

They showed no signs of focus issues or post-giant-slaying fatigue in last week’s Homecoming Game against Lovington, blanking the Wildcats by a final of 44-0.

In short, the Bulldogs are in a good place. They’ve outscored their first six opponents 282-73. Their offense has been keeping defenses honest, with Nye Estrada and his corps of receivers doing damage through the air and junior running bank Frankie Galindo churning turf in between.

They’re a group that knows how to balance hard work and love for the game. They compete ferociously yet joyfully. And they know the week before the pre-district open date is no time to take their paws off the gas.

On the other end of the spectrum, Santa Teresa is struggling. The Desert Warriors are 0-5 and haven’t been within 20 points of any of their five opponents thus far. They lost their opener to Goddard on the road, 49-0, before coming up short of Lovington, 58-7; losing to Cobre, 34-12; falling to Valencia, 51-13; and being topped lsat week by El Paso Mountain View, 33-0.

With several sophomores and a freshman in their starting lineup, they’re a program — as Maupin puts it — that’s finding itself.

“They’ve got some size, they’ve got some athletes,” Maupin said. “They’ve moved the ball on some teams at times, and they’ve had some They just don’t have a lot of belief right now. They’re running a bunch of different formations and plays, but on defense, they’re kind of the opposite — they’re just running the same thing every time.

“I remember when I went to Los Lunas, I told the coaches we were going to slow our install because I’d rather be good at 10 plays than not good at 100. I just think they’re trying too hard to do too many things, and they don’t really have an identity. And that makes it kind of hard to determine what we’re going to see.”

That means the focus turns inward. And that’s fine during a time of year that demands reflection. It’s finally autumn, the weather is contemplating cooling, and the games that count are on the horizon.

All that’s left is to finish strong.

“I’ve used the word dominate a lot,” said Maupin. “We’re the better team, and we have to go show it — we can’t play down to their level. We have to worry about ourselves and our game plan. We still have a lot of things we have to fix and get better at if we’re going to be the team we want to be at the end of the year, and this is another opportunity to accomplish that.

“We just want to finish the first season on a good note and get ready for Season No. 2.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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