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For the first time in many years, the preseason looked a bit different for the Bulldog football team and its fans.

Accustomed to two good, game-format looks at the incoming team before the start of the school year, the Sea of Orange was left with just a glimpse Aug. 9 during a brief intrasquad – though they also got a hamburger out of the deal.

Instead of Las Cruces Onate coming to town the following week for an intermural scrimmage, the Knights opted out, leaving the ‘Dogs to work out an away-and-home trade for this year and next with La Cueva.

Few were able to make the trek to Albuquerque, but from all accounts, the boys in orange performed well against the 2017 Class 6A state runners-up.

“They wanted to keep the ball at the 40, so I would say that in the first session, they moved it more effectively than we did just based on the number of plays,” head coach Rex Henderson said Saturday. “In the second session, it was fairly even, and in the third, we were more effective.”

For an Artesia squad that lost several key starters to graduation in May, the overall picture was a pleasant one.

“I think it was real good for us to go over there,” Henderson said. “They’re a good program, and they gave us some good looks – made us get better at some things that I think will be helpful going down the road.”

Perhaps the most encouraging thing the third-year coach saw was the fact his athletes stepped up their game as the competition wore on.

“Of course, it’s a scrimmage, so you do some things well and some things not so well, but to me, the thing that stood out most was we got better throughout the scrimmage,” Henderson said. “We did things better the last time out than we did the first time out, and I think that says a lot about what the kids are doing; they’re adjusting as they go along.”

That bodes well as the 2018 season opener swiftly approaches. Artesia will host Class 6A Carlsbad at 7 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Bowl.