Published: 2:54 pm, Sun. Sep. 18th, 2016Updated: 2:44 pm
At least six decades’ worth of die-hard Bulldog fans were waiting to be “set off,” as the fight song goes, Friday under the lights at Bulldog Bowl.
They didn’t have to wait long.
With a huge Homecoming crowd on hand to roar their approval, the Artesia High School football team made a marquee-worthy opening statement against the Wildcats of Deming, as junior quarterback Taylor Null found senior slot Ethan Duff for a 69-yard touchdown on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
From there, it was all orange, as the ‘Dogs romped to a 49-6 victory over the ‘Cats that places them at 4-0 on the season.
“We were really pleased with our performance last night,” coach Rex Henderson said Saturday. “Coming out and getting after them, scoring on the first offensive play, really sets the tone for the game and puts you in the direction you want to be going with your team. We were really excited about that.”
The Big Orange offense would go on to cap all but one of their eight drives on the night with a touchdown, while the Orange Crush allowed just a single fourth-quarter score, forcing six punts, one turnover on downs, and a fumble.
The Bulldogs were able to breach the checkerboard twice more in the opening quarter of play Friday, tacking on their second TD on another single-play series, this time a 52-yard catch-and-run from Null to Chaney Hardt at the 4:58 mark.
The ‘Dogs then beat the clock with another Null-to-Duff connection, this time from six yards out, to go up 21-0 with three seconds left in the first.
The Crush would hand the ball right back to start the second, as a fumble by QB Cristian Metz was recovered by Eddie Pando at the Wildcat 39-yard line, and following six plays up the short field, senior running back Isaiah Weideman darted in from the six to put Artesia on top 28-0.
The boys in orange would keep the big plays coming following a Wildcats three-and-out, as Null added a 62-yard score to his tally with a pass to Dominic Madrid, setting the mercy-rule clock in motion with 6:04 to go in the half.
“Deming did some things differently than they had done before, trying to make progress over where they’d been, so we had to make some adjustments both offensively and defensively,” Henderson said. “So after the first couple of series, I felt like we really did a good job of making those modifications and playing good football.”
Artesia elected to start the third quarter with their second-string offense, who kept the scoring streak going under the arm of sophomore quarterback Trent Taylor, who found Hardt from the 19 to make it 42-0 with 4:18 left in the period.
The ‘Cats carried their lone touchdown drive over into the fourth quarter, marching 80 yards on 14 plays, the last of which – a four-yard plunge by Armando Perales III – prevented the shutout. The PAT was blocked, however, leaving Deming with six, and the ‘Dogs would follow with their fourth one-play series of the night, an 80-yard TD sprint by Weideman that rounded out the final, 49-6, with 5:26 left in the game.
“I thought our two’s did a great job last night,” said Henderson. “We gave up the one touchdown but then we also forced a punt with our second defense, and our second offense was able to score a touchdown on one of their possessions. So we were pleased that we executed as well as we did all the way around.”
Artesia finished with 415 total yards of offense Friday to Deming’s 197. Null was 6-12 passing for 206 yards and four touchdowns, Weideman ran for 89 yards on three carries and two touchdowns, and Duff (2-75), Madrid (3-72) and Hardt (2-71) led the receiving corps.
The Bulldogs will now begin preparations for their biggest challenge to date as they host the Class 6A second-ranked Cleveland Storm at 7 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Bowl. The Storm are also 4-0 on the season with wins over Onate (24-14), La Cueva (38-37), Las Cruces High (49-42) and Centennial (49-33).
“It’s been a good start,” said Henderson. “We haven’t been tested to the point we’re fixing to get tested to next week, but I feel like our guys have done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities they’ve had, scoring points, playing good defense, and really solidifying the kicking game over the last couple of weeks, so there are a lot of positives there.
“I think we’ve made the progress we need to to get ready for a game like what’s coming up. Everybody knows it’s our biggest test to this point in the season. The next three weeks will be big as far as giving us some telltale signs about what type of team we are as we play some good-quality opponents.”