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The excessive physicality that marked – and eventually marred – the first meeting between the Bulldog soccer team and Carlsbad was still there Tuesday in Cave Country. But this time around, Artesia was expecting it.

Through every little push and jab, the boys in orange kept their composure and their minds on the game. And through one half of play, it looked as though the Eddy County rivals might be headed for another regulation deadlock.

But the Cavemen were able to log a pair of goals in the second 40 minutes Tuesday to secure the 2-0 win, and the shorthanded ‘Dogs were forced to settle for a learning experience and an opportunity to grow stronger prior to the start of district play.

“We’re down three starters right now,” head coach Phillip Jowers said today. “With that being the case, I felt like the boys played very well. It’s been that way all season for us. I haven’t had all 11 of the people who should be starting healthy for the majority of the season, so we’re at the point right now where we’re just focusing on getting healthy for district.”

The Artesia boys will have three more pre-district contests, all at home, beginning Thursday with Portales at 6 p.m. at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex. The Rams topped the ‘Dogs 3-0 Sept. 10 in Portales.

“We’re looking forward to maybe closing out that series with a little bit of redemption for what the score line was last time, because that score didn’t really reflect the caliber of team that we are,” said Jowers.

Following the Portales match, the Bulldogs will host Hatch Valley at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, and Ruidoso at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, before heading to Lovington Oct. 4 for their District 4-AAAAA opener.

“The kids played hard last night, and it was a good game,” said Jowers. “But the bottom line for us right now is, if we have to take a few more losses or we have to play a few games not as strong as we could be before district, that is what it is. Our focus is on district.”