Published: 12:13 pm, Thu. Sep. 28th, 2017Updated: 12:11 pm
Most head coaches know at least a few of their assistants aspire to helm their own program someday, and if and when that day comes, they’re proud to see it.
But if that program happens to be in the same state, there exists the potential for a bit of a wrinkle: Not only could you be seeing that former assistant again on the opposite side of the field, you could be seeing a good chunk of your playbook on it, as well.
Such will likely be the case today when the Class 5A top-ranked Bulldogs square off against former coach Jeremy Maupin and his No. 4 Los Lunas Tigers in the South Valley.
“Obviously, Coach Maupin is one of our own,” Artesia head coach Rex Henderson said Thursday. “He’s done a really good job getting things started there. They’re 4-1 at this point in the season, so they’re probably playing with a lot of confidence right now and feeling pretty good about how they’re adjusting to a new coach.”
Maupin will not only be drawing from what he learned in his five years coaching special teams and receivers for Artesia but from his time as the Bulldogs’ quarterback, as well. He helped lead the ‘Dogs to a state championship in his senior season of 2004.
“Offensively, they’re going to look familiar to a lot of people,” Henderson said. “He’s got a few things he’s doing differently than we do, but he’s running a lot of our playbook, as well, and doing some things pretty similar to us. So that’ll be interesting to see how that plays out with each other’s defenses. Defensively, it’s going to be a complete shift from what we’ve been doing schematically, but we’re still looking for consistency in the fundamental parts of that.
“On their end, (Maupin) kept on the defensive coordinator they had before, so it looks like a lot of the same concepts there as we saw last year, and he’s doing some things similarly in the kicking game, as well.”
The Tigers have, thus far this season, outscored their opponents by a combined total of 193-76. The bulk of those points allowed came in their season opener Aug. 25 at Aztec, an offensive showdown Los Lunas eeked out by six, 60-54.
They’ve pitched shutouts in all three of their other wins — 54-0 versus Alamogordo Sept. 1, 43-0 Sept. 8 against Del Norte, and 36-0 last week over Rio Grande — and came up four points shy of Roswell High in their lone loss Sept. 15, 22-18.
“They’ve got some good wins under their belts and a close one with a good Roswell High team that could’ve gone either way,” said Henderson.
The ‘Dogs and Tigers twice met in 2016, once in the regular season and again in the Class 5A state semifinals. Artesia took the first bout 39-21 and the second 35-7.
Los Lunas returns several familiar faces from that team, while significantly graduating running back O’maury Samuels, now at Michigan.
Nick Gaerlan returns under center for the Tigers in his junior season. As a sophomore in 2016, Gaerlan’s services were limitedly utilized; he was six of 15 for 67 yards, one touchdown, and two picks against the Bulldogs in the regular season and four of nine for 37 yards and two INTs in the semis. In Maupin’s offense, however, he played an increased role.
Artesia has several key athletes back, as well, from those previous bouts, including quarterback Taylor Null — who went a combined 53 of 81 for 604 yards and six touchdowns against Los Lunas — running back Robert Fernandez, 17-81 rushing with three TDs, and back Tyler Greenwood, 5-35 with four scores.
The ‘Dogs are coming off of a solid offensive showing last week against Class 6A third-ranked Cleveland and will be looking to build on that while shoring things up on defense against what — in contrast to past years — will be a pass-prominent Tiger team.
“With the cooler weather and moisture, we had a lot of energy in practice this week, which is good,” said Henderson. “It sounds like we could be seeing more of that up in Los Lunas. We’ve been building off what we’ve done in previous weeks, continuing to try to be a little more consistent as a team, and I think we’re seeing that. We’re just still looking to be the best we can be every week.”