Published: 4:38 pm, Sun. Oct. 8th, 2017Updated: 4:26 pm
If it was machine-level precision the Bulldog football team was aspiring to achieve prior to the end of its 2017 regular season, it attained that goal Friday night.
Six offensive drives, all ending in touchdowns. A defensive shutout that included two forced turnovers – one resulting in a score. And a game that ended with just over three minutes left to play in the third quarter.
Alamogordo is clearly a team in a rebuilding year, but Artesia did not overlook them, delivering a crisp 33 minutes of football that will carry them well into their open week.
“I think what I was really proud of our kids for was that we started off with the intensity and the type of focus that we needed to have,” head coach Rex Henderson said Saturday. “We came out and executed things really well, and offensively and defensively, we did the things we’ve worked on and talked about, and did them really well.”
That was particularly evident in the first quarter of play, where, it’s safe to say, the boys in orange couldn’t possibly have done better.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Taylor Null hit Tyler Greenwood from the Artesia 45, and Greenwood darted away from a tackle en route to the end zone to make it 7-0 Bulldogs just 19 seconds in.
Tiger QB Tom Turnbull was twice snagged for a loss in Alamo’s first possession, resulting in a quick three and out, and three plays later, the ‘Dogs were over the goal line again, this time on an 11-yard toss from Null to AJ Estrada with 8:49 on the clock.
Not to be outdone, the defense would force a fumble deep in Alamogordo territory – recovered by Darian Fernandez – to set the offense back up at the Tiger 25, and from there, senior running back Robert Fernandez would make Artesia’s first rushing play of the night count, rumbling to the checkerboard to add seven more with 5:48 still to go in the first.
As it would happen, that was time for not one but two more Bulldog scores, as a 10-yard touchdown pass from Null to JR Bustamante at the 3:23 mark was followed 20 seconds later by an Orange Crush TD, as linebacker Blake Pruitt scooped up a Tiger fumble and returned it 18 yards to send the ‘Dogs into the second quarter with a 35-0 lead.
With the clock swiftly ticking, another Alamo three-and-out was followed by Artesia’s longest scoring drive of the night in terms of number of plays, as the second string took the field and kept the ball rolling.
Junior RB Jagger Donaghe carried the ball four times in the series for 31 yards, and following quick passes to Estrada and Jacob Orona for eight and nine yards respectively, Taylor found Estrada again on first and goal from the four, sending the ball into the corner of the end zone, where Estrada was able to bring it down to set the halftime tally, 42-0.
Alamogordo logged its inaugural non-penalty-induced first down in its final possession of the half, as well as its first trip into Artesia territory before the horn sounded.
The Tigers followed with their most productive drive of the contest to start the third, as Takoda Lasalle and Turnbull began taking turns on the ground, making their way from their own 21 to a first down at the Bulldog 34.
From there, however, the Crush would stiffen, forcing the turnover on downs and facilitating the final blow.
The Artesia offense would cover more ground than it had all night in the drive – 76 yards – but needed just three plays to do it, as Taylor hit Beau Matthews for 10, Donaghe scampered 16 yards to the 50, and Taylor connected with Collin Turner from there. Greenwood charged into the end zone with the two-point conversion to seal the deal on the mercy-rule win, 50-0 with 3:07 left in the third.
“How well we executed was really evidenced by that 35-0 score in the first quarter,” said Henderson. “We had four quick offensive touchdowns and a defensive TD, and it was pretty clear how our first-team group completely shut them down on defense and were efficient on offense.
“We talked about starting well all week, and we didn’t take our opponent lightly, which I was also proud of. We were also able to get some kids in that haven’t gotten a lot of playing time lately. Valencia was the last time a lot of them got into a varsity game, so that’s always really good for morale.”
A bit unusual, considering the score, was the fact that Bulldogs didn’t quite breach 300 yards of offense on the night; that stat, however, is easily explained by the fact the squad started two of its drives from inside the Tiger 30 and one from inside the 40.
Null was five of six for 120 yards and three scores, and Taylor finished five of six for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Donaghe and Fernandez went 5-48 and 1-25 respectively to comprise the ‘Dogs’ 73 rushing yards in the game, and Greenwood and Turner’s single catches for 55 and 50 yards put them atop the receiving corps.
The Crush, meanwhile, held Alamogordo to 56 total yards, 50 rushing and six passing. The D posted five tackles for a cumulative loss of 20 yards and had five stops for no gain.
With the victory, the Bulldogs close out their regular-season slate with a record of 5-2, and they’ll take their open date this week before kicking off District 4-AAAAA play Oct. 20 against Roswell High on the road.
“It’s nice to have a good, solid win going into the open week and getting ready for district play,” Henderson said. “It gives you some confidence, and they ought to go into the break feeling good about their level of execution.
“Really, with a few exceptions, that’s been pretty good over the last four weeks, and I think we saw all of that culminate with the way we played Friday.”