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For a program in the midst of rebuilding from the ground up, the past two seasons have come down to playing for pride for the Bulldog soccer team. That phrase is often used in the context of a consolation prize of sorts. But for the ‘Dogs, pride matters. With pride will come dedication, commitment and effort, all key ingredients of a successful program.

As their 2016 season drew to a close, Artesia was measuring success in milestones, and they logged another Saturday at Roswell High. After falling 6-0 to the Coyotes Oct. 11 at home, the Bulldogs trimmed that deficit the second time around, falling 4-1, that lone goal the first the team has scored on Roswell in around three years.

“After we got that goal, the boys got up, and they were playing hard,” second-year head coach Phillip Jowers said Saturday. “It just gave the boys that confidence that they need to know we are a good team and we can play with teams like that.”

Roswell High did the entirety of its scoring in the first half of play Saturday, leaving the Bulldogs to make a decision in the second 40: give up or go for it. They chose the latter.

On a 50-50 ball between sophomore forward Kolton Jorren and the Coyote keeper, the keeper gave Jorren a shoulder to the chest, prompting a penalty kick that Cesar Leyva delivered to stave off the shutout.

“That single act of Kolton just never giving up on that ball basically changed the whole mentality for our team,” Jowers said. “It wasn’t like we weren’t getting opportunities in the first half, but there is a distinct size advantage between us and them, and that makes a difference. It makes it hard for our boys to compete with crosses for headers and stuff like that.”

With a fresh burst of momentum, the ‘Dogs stepped up to challenge Roswell’s trademark over-physicality and would hold the Coyotes at bay through the remainder of the contest.

“It may not have been a numerical win, but we accomplished what we set out to accomplish against them, which was just to play our game and get everybody involved, get everybody a touch on the ball, and for it to be a team game,” said Jowers. “Everybody was working together to get the ball forward, and the boys just showed up.”

The Bulldogs will bid farewell this season to six seniors in Jake Trejo, Alex Ruiz, Omar Avitia, Miguel Chavez, Austin Lasater and Gilbert Sanchez but will return the bulk of their starting lineup in 2017.

“It was hard to see the seniors leave,” said Jowers. “The seniors that’re graduating from this team, there’ve been memorable moments throughout the years I’ve been here with each and every one of them. The joy of getting to coach high-school boys and getting to see them mature and grow is why we do what we do.

“It’s a pleasure to have the coaching staff I have with Daniel Kidd and Mike Pelletier. I’m very appreciative of them, and they do a great job. We’re all looking forward to next season, and this team is going to improve. I’m honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to coach this group of boys.”