. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Bulldog running back Robert Fernandez finds a hole en route to a 37-yard touchdown run as quarterback Taylor Null (11) looks on during the first quarter Friday in Deming. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Bulldog football team had a specific set of goals in mind Friday in Deming, a checklist of Week Four wishes that would help the squad accomplish its primary aim of week-to-week improvement.

The first was to beat the school bus blues and get off to a quick start against the Wildcats. A pair of touchdowns in the first four minutes of play and a fumble recovery in the kicking game saw that box ticked.

The rest centered around consistency on offense and defensive toughness, and with the Big Orange O capping all but two of their drives on the night with a touchdown while the first-team D pitched a shutout, those too were accomplished.

The ultimate result was a 49-6 victory over the ‘Cats that bumped Artesia’s record to 3-1.

“We didn’t start off quite as sharp as I’d hoped, but we didn’t start off bad, either, and that kind of set the tone,” head coach Rex Henderson said Saturday.

On a breezy night out west, Deming elected to receive the opening kick and initially looked to be moving the ball well on the legs of running back Trini Garcia II and quarterback Daniel Garcia.

Jagger Donaghe stops on a dime before breaking a long run in the second half Friday in Deming. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

After picking up a first down near midfield, however, the Orange Crush would stiffen and the series would stall. And with the ‘Cats having elected to try their luck on fourth and four from their own 49, that gave the ‘Dogs a short field to work with on their first trip out.

Senior QB Taylor Null made it even shorter on the first play from scrimmage, connecting with AJ Estrada for a 15-yard pass, and an incompletion later, Robert Fernandez would sprint over the goal line from 37 yards out to make it 7-0 Artesia with 8:17 left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs’ special forces put their mark on the contest early, as Kaden Chumbley pounced on a fumble at the end of the kick return, and Artesia needed just a single play to take advantage, as Null found Tyler Greenwood from the Wildcat 26 to put the ‘Dogs up 14-0 14 seconds later.

To their credit, the ‘Cats weren’t irreparably rattled, embarking on a methodical drive in their second series of the night that saw them convert thrice on third down en route to a first and goal at the Artesia nine. From there, however, the Crush would post one tackle for no gain, one for a loss of three, and a sack of Garcia on fourth down to end the threat.

At left, AJ Estrada eludes a Deming defender before racking up extra yardage Friday in Deming. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

With Null sprinkling passes to a variety of receivers and Fernandez legging out first downs, the second quarter saw the ‘Dogs poised to log their third score of the night before a fumble near the goal line returned the ball to Deming.

But after the D forced a punt, the offense made up for the rare cough-up, as Null hit Jacob Orona twice – the first time for 15 yards and the second for 50 to make it 21-0 with 7:15 to go in the half.

The Wildcats punted away their final possession of the second quarter, leaving Artesia time to score again prior to the horn on a nine-yard toss from Null to Greenwood that gave the ‘Dogs a 28-0 halftime edge.

A Bulldog turnover on downs and Deming punt got the third quarter off to a slow start, but the offense would regain its rhythm on a drive that saw Null pass his way to the 12 – with Chaney Hardt, Greenwood, JR Bustamante and Caleb Conley on the receiving ends – before calling his own number for the score that would set the mercy-rule clock in motion with 7:52 on the clock.

Kaden Chumbley prepares to deposit Wildcat Abel Chavez elsewhere. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

A Wildcat turnover on downs removed most of those minutes, and the ‘Dogs – with their second-string offense on the field – would make it 42-0 as the fourth quarter commenced on a one-yard plunge by Jagger Donaghe.

Relying heavily on Garcia II, the ‘Cats were able to get on the board with 1:37 to go in the game on a one-yard run by the senior, but Artesia would still have the final word, as Greenwood broke the kickoff 78 yards to pay dirt with 52 seconds remaining to set the final, 49-6.

“We definitely won the kicking game,” said Henderson. “Our special teams did a great job last night. I also thought we did some things real well offensively as far as executing the game plan we had intended to run. To their credit, they changed defenses after the second series, so that was a good look for us to see and work against for the rest of the game.

“I thought our offensive guys did a good job of adjusting as the game went on and learning to pick up some things we haven’t really seen yet this year. And defensively, any time you can get a shutout with your first team, that’s great, and we’re real proud of our defensive effort. They were able to move the ball a little bit early, but we adjusted and had some really big moments where we stopped them.”

Colin Flood sacks Deming quarterback Daniel Garcia. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Bulldogs posted 415 total yards of offense on the night to the Wildcats’ 244.

Null was 24 of 33 for 294 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, while Bustamante (6-80), Orona (3-68), Greenwood (5-59), Estrada (4-41) and Hardt (5-41) led the receiving corps. Fernandez finished with 67 yards on five carries, and Favian Carrasco was a perfect 7-7 on PAT.

The Bulldogs will now prepare to head north for their final interclassification matchup of the season against Class 6A Cleveland.

The Storm are currently 3-1 on the season, having topped Onate (52-22), Las Cruces High (28-21) and Centennial (42-12) and come up short of La Cueva (28-21).