A trio of Artesia High School coaches were honored July 22 by the New Mexico High School Coaches Association (NMHSCA) for excellence in their fields.
The NMHSCA Awards came at a poignant time for two of the recipients as they close out long and distinguished careers in public education. Cooper Henderson was named the 2023 Athletic Director of the Year and Paul Kirkwood a 2023 Assistant Coach of the Year.
Second-year head coach Jeremy Maupin, meanwhile, was recognized across all classifications as the 2023 Football Coach of the Year.
Henderson, who led the Bulldog football team for 27 seasons and capped off his 30th year as Artesia Public Schools (APS) athletic director in May, officially retired from the APS at the end of June. As AD, he worked tirelessly to foster an environment of positivity, cooperation and success within the district’s athletic programs.
“It’s nice to be recognized by your professional peers, and I certainly appreciate it,” Henderson said Wednesday.
He will remain a part of Bulldog football on a volunteer basis, working with the sophomore athletes under Maupin, his former state-championship quarterback.
“Cooper’s like a dad,” Maupin said. “I’m just really proud of the man he is, and he’s a big part of the reason I’m the man I am. I just have a ton of respect for him.”
Maupin himself returned to his alma mater just in time for the 2021 season after four years as head coach at Los Lunas High. He proceeded to take the ‘Dogs to the Class 5A state title game that year before coming up short of the Tiger program he built.
The Bulldogs made a return trip in 2022, however, this time claiming the blue trophy with a 27-14 win over Piedra Vista in Farmington. The win marked Artesia’s 31st overall title and first since 2017.
“It’s an honor for sure,” Maupin said of his award. “It’s pretty cool to have been nominated for that and won because it’s regardless of classification — it’s just football in general. So I feel really honored.”
Kirkwood, meanwhile, retired at the end of the 2022-23 school year after 38 years in Artesia. He arrived in the City of Champions with former head basketball coach Bubba Jennings in 1986 and took the helm of the boys’ program following Jennings’ departure.
Following his head coaching tenure, Kirkwood also coached at Park Junior High School before returning to the high school sideline as an assistant under former player Michael Mondragon.
“This is just an accumulation for all the hard work he’s done, not only for Bulldog basketball but our whole district,” Mondragon said. “The hardest honor to get, I think, is being a great assistant coach because it’s not about you.
“He’s just a great mentor and a great man who gave back to our district and gave back to multiple programs. He was selfless, he worked every single day and didn’t care about who got the credit, just about doing what’s best for kids. This award was well deserved. I’m very proud of him, and he’s definitely going to be missed.”