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Over the past several seasons, the annual battle of ‘Dog vs. ‘Dawg has become one of the premier Week Six matchups in the state.

The series has, more often than not, been marked by tight scores and 48 minutes of nonstop action, and last year was no exception.

Artesia led Las Cruces High 21-20 at the half, 28-20 heading into the final quarter. The Bulldawgs again pulled within a point with 11:04 remaining in the game and within two, 35-33, with 5:21 to go after a failed conversion attempt.

The Bulldogs widened the margin once more, 41-33, with 1:44 to go, and after watching the ‘Dawgs quickly drive from their own 40-yard line to the Artesia 11, ended the threat on a sack as time ran out.

Needless to say, fans of both squads are accustomed to using only a third of their seats but getting every dollar’s worth.

“We’ve known all along that at this point in the season, we’re going to need to step up and play better football, and that’s what you want to do,” Bulldog head coach Cooper Henderson said this morning. “That’s why we schedule some good opponents every year.

“We know that playing the Las Cruces Bulldawgs is going to be a challenge Friday night, but it’s one we’re really excited about.”

Adding to the list of challenges the ‘Dogs will be facing Friday at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces, the team will be competing without the services of starting quarterback Justin Houghtaling due to injury.

Getting his first varsity start will be 6’1”, 165-pound sophomore QB Taylor Null. Null has seen limited action this season but has performed well for the Artesia sophomore team.

On the opposing side, the Bulldawgs will be led by three-year starter Kameron Miller, who helms a talented skill set.

“They have some really good skill people and a solid offensive line, but probably the person that stands out the most is Kameron Miller, Coach (Jim) Miller’s son,” Henderson said. “He really runs the offense. He runs and throws, and moves them down the field, and they’ll definitely have a solid game there.”

Miller posted 333 passing yards and four touchdowns last season against Artesia but was picked off thrice. He also turned in 88 rushing yards on 15 carries.

In last week’s 42-35 loss to Class 5A (and soon to be 6A) Centennial, Miller was 15-176 on the ground with a trio of touchdowns and 13 of 22 passing for 256 yards and two TDs. His favorite target, sophomore Brandon Baeza, had 10 catches for 167 yards and a TD.

Las Cruces led 27-21 at the half in that contest with more than 300 yards of offense compiled in the opening quarters, but the Hawks were able to hold them to 140 in the second half.

Centennial went up 42-27 with 7:04 to go in the contest, and although the Bulldawgs had a chance in the final minutes, scoring with 6:03 still to go to make it a one-possession game, the Hawks were able to run out the clock.

The Bulldog defense will be looking to continue their standout play by limiting the tandem threat of Miller and Baeza Friday.

Las Cruces has, as is typical, good size and strength defensively, as well.

“They wouldn’t like the kind of option that we saw last week against Carlsbad,” said Henderson. “They’d like to pressure you, make the big play, and not worry about manning up or you getting behind them as much as them trying to come and stop you.”

Henderson also feels the kicking game could play a significant role in tomorrow’s bout.

“The kicking game should be interesting,” he said. “Cruces has a good kicker and a good punter, and our kicking game has been one of our strengths this season, so I feel like that could probably be a pretty big part of the game.”

Despite the shakeup in personnel, the Bulldogs have been hard at work this week and will be prepared for the test at hand Friday.

“They’re a pretty typical Las Cruces team, solid on both sides of the ball and well coached, and we feel like we can say some of those same things about our football team,” Henderson said. “I think it’s good for us to have this type of challenge before you get into district play, and we’re really looking forward to going over to Las Cruces and playing Friday night.”