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JR Bustamante hauls in a pass from junior quarterback Trent Taylor and turns upfield for the game’s final touchdown Friday at Bulldog Bowl. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Just a minute and a half into Friday’s 2017 Homecoming game at Bulldog Bowl, the cannon was firing, the massive crowd was cheering, and the ‘Dogs were on the board.

Valencia had already completed its first possession, and Artesia had run just two plays. In a polar-opposite-of-last-week fashion, things were progressing quickly. And they wouldn’t slow down from there.

The boys in orange racked up 28 points in the first quarter of play and 21 more in the second to carry a 49-0 lead in at the half, and with the clock continuously running to start the second, their eighth touchdown of the night would be the game’s last. With 1:46 still to go in the third, the Bulldogs capped a 55-0 decision over the Jaguars to improve to 2-1 on the season – and give those aging alumni an early night.

Kaden Chumbley goes airborne to intercept a pass in front of Valencia receiver Robbie Jaramillo Friday. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

“I was really proud of the way that our kids executed last night,” head coach Rex Henderson said Saturday. “For our goal to have been that we needed more consistent execution, I thought we definitely accomplished that. “We had a number of three-and-outs on defense and short drives on offense, and those are good execution drives and series for us. We were also more consistent overall in the kicking game with what we were trying to get done.”

It was clear the Orange Crush was raring to get back on the gridiron Friday, and they did so with a vengeance, forcing a quick three and out in the game’s opening drive.

Artesia took over at their own 49, and following a 37-yard dash by senior running back Robert Fernandez to the Jaguar 14, quarterback Taylor Null let his classmate finish what he’d
started, putting the ‘Dogs on top 7-0 with 10:35 to go in the quarter.

Valencia was able to secure its first of just two first downs on the night in their second possession, as quarterback Andres Lucero hit Austin Nagy along the Jaguar sideline for a 25-yard pass. The ‘Dogs stiffened from there, however, forcing another punt, and Null would connect with Tyler Greenwood from 28 yards out to make it 14-0 with 5:27 on the clock.

As it turned out, that would be plenty of time for two more scores.

Junior corner Kaden Chumbley skied to nab a Lucero pass near midfield on third down and returned it to the Jaguar 37, and Fernandez – following a four-yard warm-up jaunt – would log his second TD on a 33-yard sprint.

Robert Fernandez leaves a pair of Valencia defenders in the dust during the first quarter Friday. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

A sack by junior linebacker Colin Flood helped force Valencia’s next three and out, and after launching a 47-yard bomb to AJ Estrada to earn first and goal, Null tossed to Alex Fernandez in the end zone from the six to give Artesia a commanding 28-0 lead with 36 seconds to go in the first.

The Jaguars turned the ball over on downs in their own red zone to start the second, and the ‘Dogs took full advantage, scoring on just one play – a 25-yard pass from Null to JR Bustamante – to keep the momentum going, and after Flood and Blake Pruitt combined to take Lucero down in the backfield again, Robert Fernandez would make it a hat trick with a 17-yard TD run with 7:21 left in the half.

Johan Corral bears down on Jaguar running back Devon Martinez. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Kyler Smoot got in on the sack action in Valencia’s penultimate drive of the quarter, and Bustamante followed with the special forces’ first touchdown of the year, a 52-yard punt return that set the halftime tally – 49-0 – with 4:39 to go.

Artesia had already begun to work its bench into the action prior to the half, and they’d continue that as the third quarter commenced.

With fresh faces darting all over the field, the ‘Dogs’ first series of the second half ended in a missed field goal attempt. After another red-zone turnover on downs by Valencia, however, the short field presented itself once more, and junior QB Trent Taylor would connect with Bustamante for a 29-yard catch and run to end the game, 55-0.

Artesia finished with 341 total yards of offense to Valencia’s 51 on the night. Null was six of nine for 148 yards and three touchdowns passing, while Taylor went one of eight for 29 and one TD. Bustamante led the receiving corps with three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, and Robert Fernandez racked up 138 rushing yards and three TDs on nine carries.

Alex Fernandez brings in a Taylor Null touchdown pass. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

While the game was abbreviated the action decidedly lopsided, Henderson says his athletes will still be able to find the lessons in the contest.

“I think that seeing you’re capable of executing consistently is a good thing,” said the coach. “If you handle it right, there’s some sense of morale you can build out of that, particularly when you get a lot of people in the game, guys that’re working hard in practice but aren’t getting on the field much or at all.

“There’s some real positives there, and I think we were able to learn a lot with our second O and second D. Getting into some actual varsity action was a good feeling for them in particular, and I think all of that is going to help us out going forward.”

The Bulldogs will next make the long trek west to take on Deming Friday. The Class 5A Wildcats are also 2-1 on the year, having topped Gadsden (22-9) and Silver (36-31) before falling Friday night to El Paso Burges (47-26).