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The Artesia Bulldog and Centennial Hawk football programs received high praise recently from a New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA) staff member.

Following the Dec. 5, 2015, Class 5A state championship game between Artesia and Centennial at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces, NMAA Deputy Director and Commissioner of Officials Dana Pappas penned a letter to officials with both schools commending their football programs for their sportsmanship and character during the state game.

The letter was discussed at the last meeting of the Artesia Public Schools Board of Education and is printed in its entirety below:

“I just wanted to send a note of appreciation to both the Artesia High School and Centennial High School football programs for an outstanding championship football game on Saturday. We preach the message of Compete with Class as an Association and it was with great pride that I was able to be in attendance at a game that truly exemplified the mission and tenets of our sportsmanship initiative. As a staff, we want to ensure we commend schools who are leading by example with regard to sportsmanship and I would be remiss if I did not send this email to you all.

“Both programs play fundamentally sound and clean football. The hitting was hard but within the rules of the game and every player on the field treated every other player with the utmost respect. The officials didn’t hear any ‘jawing’ between players and the game was played with very few infractions. This is a tribute to you and your coaching staffs and to the overall culture of your schools.

“I was able to speak with the crew after the game and all five of them said it was the highlight of their football officiating careers, two of whom have worked football at the collegiate level. They enjoyed the sportsmanship and professionalism of the players and coaching staffs from start to finish. They said the game was the most fun they had ever had on the field and that your game was a reminder of why they do what they do.

“The game on Saturday was not only what championship games should be about but is an example of how interscholastic athletics should be played. My hat is off to your programs and your communities, who came together to play a game and compete for a title but who also bonded together in remembrance over the loss of Coach Grays. It was an emotional experience for all involved and the collaborative commemoration of Coach Grays at halftime was a moment that I will never forget.

“I’ve been to countless games in nearly two decades at the NMAA and I will tell you that what I was able to be a part of on Saturday is one of my favorite experiences to date. Thank you, your programs and your communities for being true examples of competing with class. A special thank you to Ernie Viramontes and his staff for running such a smooth event. My sincerest gratitude and commendation goes out to all involved for an incredible interscholastic sport experience.

“Congratulations on an outstanding 2015 season and keep doing what you do!”