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Most coaches might not exactly jump at the chance to schedule a team that recently came a step away from the state-championship game as their season opener. But Bulldog head soccer coach Phillip Jowers wanted to see where his athletes stood right out of the gate.

“Santa Teresa is a really good team,” Jowers said Saturday from the road. “Coach (Luis) Villalobos has a good program, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to get their team on our schedule this year.

“I have a lot of respect for the program he’s built over there, so this was kind of an opportunity for us to have that litmus test. So that we could say, ‘Hey, this is the level we need to be playing at going forward into the season.’”

The Artesia boys battled the Desert Warriors through a scoreless first half Saturday on the road before taking the lead about 10 minutes into the second on a play they’ve spent significant time on in their as-yet-few practice sessions.

“Our first official practice was Monday,” said Jowers. “But one of the things we worked on this past week was our set pieces as far as corners and free kicks, and today, our goal came off a corner.”

Carlos Martinez was able to cross the corner kick to Ian Robson, who headed it into the net to make it 1-0 Bulldogs.

“That was obviously a positive, because we’ve been working really hard on our set pieces,” said Jowers.

Unfortunately, Santa Teresa was able to regroup as the second half wore on, score two goals late to snatch the win, 2-1. But while his squad came up short, Jowers was impressed with the way they competed in their first action of the year.

“I thought we did really well,” said the coach. “Some of these boys have put in a lot of hard work during the summer. We ended up with a total of 47 boys coming out for soccer, so we have really good numbers when it comes to the program in general, and things have been going really well.

“This was the first game of the season, and obviously, we identified quite a few things we need to work on, but overall, they did well. I have a really good group of boys right now, and they’re working hard.”

The ‘Dogs will have another week of preparation before their next long road trip Saturday to Belen, where they’ll take on the Eagles at 3 p.m. Artesia will then host its 2018 home opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, against Hobbs at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex.