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DogWhile the adage of “throwing out the record books” when it comes to rivalry games has become something of a cliché, there’s no denying the effect an excess of emotion can produce in sports.

Momentum isn’t a myth, as the Bulldog football team saw clearly last week against Roswell High at Wool Bowl. Give a group of athletes added incentive, a raucous crowd behind them, and a rush of adrenaline, and anything can truly happen.

Fans of both Artesia and Goddard have witnessed that proven time and again over the course of the series, and never more than since the two squads became district rivals in 2000.

The Bulldogs dominated the majority of the first decade, but from 2008-2013, the Rockets fielded consistently skilled and veteran teams that had a stranglehold on the District 4-AAAAA crown.

The ‘Dogs broke that streak in thrilling fashion last year on the road, defeating Goddard 20-13 in a bout that, as so many have, went down to the wire. Trailing 7-0 after the first quarter, Artesia was able to knot the score at the half and take a 14-7 lead in the third. But with 5:50 remaining, an interception return for a touchdown brought the Rockets a point away after a missed PAT, 14-13.

The Bulldogs were able to log the vital insurance TD with 40 seconds on the clock, and the defense held Goddard at bay through a whirlwind of desperation attempts in the final moments.

The victory was a sweet one for the boys in orange, but they’ll not be dwelling on it tonight. Both teams  taking the field at Bulldog Bowl are vastly different from their 2014 counterparts and will be focused on one important thing: taking the lead in the district race.

“Anyone that’s followed Bulldog football knows that when you get ready to play the Goddard Rockets, it’s going to be a great ballgame,” Artesia head coach Cooper Henderson said Thursday. “I don’t expect anything different this year.”

Goddard returns just three players on offense who saw significant action against the Bulldogs last year, including a pair of offensive linemen and senior running back Lukas Gutierrez, who saw limited touches behind starter Dean McDaniel. New under center this year is 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore Cameron Stevenson.

The Rocket defense has a bit more experience and was able to hold the ‘Dogs to 282 total yards in 2014.

“Goddard comes in with a group that’s had more learning experiences along the way than some of their teams in years past, but they’re still a very typical Goddard team,” Henderson said. “They’re very solid as far as blocking, tackling, and the fundamentals of football.

“They don’t give up the big play. They’re going to grind it out on offense and then try to make a big play of their own here and there, and they’re just going to be an overall sound football team.”

The Rockets (5-3) got off to a slow start this season, losing their first two outings to Clovis (37-14) and Piedra Vista (34-16) before picking up a pair of big wins over Los Lunas and Belen.

As far as common opponents, the ‘Dogs (7-1) had similar success against the Eagles and defeated Hobbs – which routed Goddard 46-14 Sept. 25 – 38-28 in Week Two. Goddard logged a 28-26 win over Carlsbad Oct. 9, whom the Bulldogs topped 31-13 Sept. 25.

Both squads posted wins in their district openers last week, Artesia edging scrappy Roswell 47-39 and Goddard besting Lovington 42-14.

Vying for the winning edge in district will assuredly add that extra jolt today to the already hotly contested series between two teams that will undoubtedly be in the hunt come playoff time.

“We also know when you get Artesia and Goddard together, you have two teams giving their best efforts because of the type of games we’ve had over the years and the rivalry between district opponents,” Henderson said. “I think we both see each other as being teams that expect to be among the top in the state year in and year out, and that’s the type of game we’re expecting here tomorrow night.

“We’re really excited about it from our end. I feel like we’ve had a real good focus on improvement this week on some things we didn’t do quite as consistently last week, and we’re just looking forward to having a big game Friday night.”