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An Artesia Bulldog tames a Lovington Wildcat in this drawing by Artesia High School junior Maegan Lemon.

An Artesia Bulldog tames a Lovington Wildcat in this drawing by Artesia High School junior Maegan Lemon.

The Bulldog football team’s mindset this week could be summed up in one short sentence: They just want to get back on the field and play.

After the bizarre events of last week’s bout with Goddard, the ‘Dogs have refocused and set their sights firmly on finishing out the 2016 regular season on a high note against Lovington.

Artesia enters tonight’s District 4-AAAAA road contest with a record of 7-2 (1-1) while the Wildcats stand at 1-8 on the year, 0-2 in district play. The ‘Cats were dismantled by both Goddard (54-0) and Roswell High (55-3).

And while the above facts make the matchup look less than appealing on paper, head coach Rex Henderson and his staff have stressed to the ‘Dogs that taking Lovington lightly would be a mistake.

“We’re playing to be ready for the playoffs, but there’s no hope they’re going to make it,” Henderson said Thursday. “So for them, you can kind of build the last game up into a playoff game and create that mentality with your players.

“I anticipate they’re going to come out and play well at home in their final game and try to send their seniors off well, so we’ve got to make sure that we come out and match that intensity and that focus, and do the things we need to to get better.”

Lovington opened its 2016 campaign with a pair of relatively close losses to Denver City, Texas (38-21) and Portales (34-24) but found themselves on the short end of lopsided decisions against Ruidoso, Hobbs, St. Pius and Capital.

The ‘Cats topped Santa Teresa by a touchdown, 35-28, Oct. 7 before running into the Rockets and Coyotes.

Lovington was held to just 41 yards of offensive against Roswell High and will undoubtedly be looking to get that particular taste out of their mouths today.

Led by sophomore quarterback Evan Cesareo, the Wildcats have a mixture of young and raw talent, particularly in the skill positions, and have been working to build their program under first-year head coach Anthony Gonzales.

“Lovington’s kind of young, and the combination of young kids learning a new scheme has resulted in some struggles,” Henderson said. “You can see them doing some things better as the year goes on, but the people they’re playing are doing things better, too, so the results may not always look different.

“They’ve got athletes. It’s not that they’re just young, they’re athletes, and you can see that if they put it all together, there’s promising signs. So it’s a game where we’ve got to make sure we go in ready to get after it and play focused and consistent football.”

For the Bulldogs, they’ll have to shift their focus from the brands of offense and defense they’ve been facing the past few weeks, something Henderson feels should aid them with the playoffs approaching.

“They present some challenges,” Henderson said. “Their schemes on both offense and defense are entirely different from what we’ve seen the last two weeks in getting ready for Roswell and Goddard, so you have to completely shift gears in a lot of ways.

“For three weeks, we were able to work on similar-type schemes, so the things you do in individual drills were similar. But switching it up will, I think, be good for us, because we’ll see somebody in the playoffs, more than likely, that does things similar to what Lovington does.”

The ‘Dogs will be looking to continue to improve the things they’ve been emphasizing all year – consistency and execution – while honing the fundamentals in preparation for a likely two-week break heading into the postseason.

And to get off on the right foot, Henderson hopes to see the squad come out strong from the opening kick.

“We need to get after them at the beginning of the game,” said the coach.