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An Artesia Bulldog gets a hold on an Alamogordo Tiger in this drawing by Artesia High School senior art student Maegan Lemon. The ‘Dogs will close out their 2017 regular season today in their first home outing since Sept. 8 against the Tigers at Bulldog Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

To say the Alamogordo Tigers have been a bit beaten up over the course of their 2017 regular season would be an understatement.

The boys in black and gold have, to this point, been outscored 218-49 by their five opponents. They’ve yet to settle into their new offensive system, and their defense has struggled to keep pace with some potentially powerful offenses.

But while Artesia (4-2) versus Alamogordo (0-5) may certainly look like a mismatch on paper this year, one thing the Bulldogs know is that you can never underestimate an opponent desperate for a win.

The Tigers will come to town today hungry, and the ‘Dogs won’t be overlooking the fact.

“Alamogordo’s got a new coach this year (AJ Cisco) who has a name familiar to longtime Artesians,” Artesia head coach Rex Henderson said Thursday. “His father, Jack, was the coach at Roswell, and he’s actually helping his son a little bit this year.

“They’ve undergone a complete system change and have gone from a predominantly passing team to a predominantly running team, and there’s also a whole new defense.”

In addition to their shift in philosophy, Alamogordo suffered mass losses to graduation in May. The squad returns just one starter – linebacker John Treat, who now also doubles as running back – from 2016.

“Alamo had a really good senior class last year, and you can see the effects of graduation,” said Henderson. “There’s a lot of younger guys playing, four or five key sophomores, so it’s a young team in a lot of ways.

“With the scheme change combined with the young kids, what you’re seeing is a lot of growing pains.”

The Tigers and Bulldogs have a pair of opponents in common thus far. Alamo opened its season with a 34-12 loss to Valencia – whom Artesia mercy-ruled 55-0 Sept. 8 – and were themselves at the wrong end of the 50-point rule Sept. 1 against Los Lunas, 54-0. The ‘Dogs will be fresh off of a 30-27 win over the northern Tigers.

Alamo has also come up short of Valley (41-14), St. Pius (54-13) and Goddard (35-10).
It’s clear the Tigers won’t resemble the team that took a 12-0 lead over Artesia last year in Alamo before eventually falling 48-35, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to give the ‘Dogs a game.

“It’s not a typical Alamo season to this point, but the athletes are still there,” said Henderson. “When you watch them, they’re talented, they’re quick… the skill kids are still what you would expect from Alamogordo. They can still be dangerous just because of the athletes that’re there.”

As for the Bulldogs, while putting forth overall solid performances, they stumbled in spots the past two weeks against Class 6A Cleveland and Los Lunas, and they’ll be looking to clean up those mistakes today.

They’ll get a quality chance, Henderson says, due to the variety the Tigers will likely bring to the field.

“The good thing about what they do that I think has helped us stay focused – because it’s easy for kids to look at their record and think they might not be good – is they do a lot of different things,” said the coach. “And a lot of what they do is some of the stuff we’ll see in district.

“For our defense, it’s going to be a good trial run at lining up to some of the sets we’ll see down the road, and for our offense, they actually have a lot of different defenses, so it’ll be good for us to have to recognize fronts and communicate, and understand what needs to happen.”

Henderson says the ‘Dogs will also likely recognize some of the schemes that caused them problems against Hobbs, Cleveland Los Lunas.

“They do some things that have given us problems throughout the season, so that’s been another good attention-getter in practice. These are things we’ve needed to work on, so it’s been a good week for us. We had a good week of practice, and we’re looking forward to this game.”