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There’ve been times in the past when the simple knowledge of heading into a match against an undefeated opponent in a higher class would have taken the Bulldog soccer team out of its game before it even started.

A testament to the program’s growth is that, Saturday in Clovis, the ‘Dogs very nearly handed the 5A Wildcats their first loss.

Down 1-0 at the half, the Bulldogs came back and tied things up with 23 minutes remaining in the contest on a goal by John Baca off the Carlos Martinez assist.

Two minutes later, Artesia was in the lead.

The Bulldogs made it 2-1 on a header into the back of the net by Cooper Flores, again assisted by Martinez, and at that point, the boys in orange could taste it.

“The intensity was there, the communication, and just the overall team play,” senior center-back and team captain Tomas Gonzales said Saturday. “I think we were playing as a group today overall – defensively, offensively, all around, it was just a good performance.”

At the 17-minute mark, the ‘Cats were able to tie things up, and as the clock fell under two minutes, it looked as though the squads would be heading to overtime. With just seconds remaining, however, Clovis was awarded a direct free kick just outside the 18, and they put it in for the 3-2 win.

It was an unfortunate way to lose what had been a breakout game for Artesia.

“I was just really pleased with the way we played,” head coach Phillip Jowers said. “We got down, came back, tied it, went ahead, then stayed tied till the very end. I think a lot of people, after seeing the scores Hobbs put up against us and some of the other games we should’ve won and didn’t, don’t realize that we can play.

“We were missing four guys who normally start today, and we still competed. People stepped up out of the reserves and did really well. I can take a loss like this when everybody plays the way we can play.”

The outing was more impressive still when considering the ‘Dogs were coming off a somewhat crushing 8-0 loss to Hobbs Thursday on the road.

“We just went from the lowest of lows, getting thumped by Hobbs, to competing with a team that’s beaten Hobbs,” Jowers said. “It just goes to show what we can do when we show up to play.

“This was a good experience for all of us.”

Gonzales agreed the solid showing should provide the ‘Dogs with a shot in the arm moving forward.

“It should definitely boost up our confidence,” he said.

The Bulldogs will need to retain that focus and competitive spirit Tuesday when they cap off their three-game road trip at 6 p.m. in Carlsbad. The Cavemen are 3-4-2 on the year and coming off of a 1-0 loss to Lovington Saturday.

“We always enjoy playing Carlsbad,” said Jowers. “It’s always a fun game. I have a lot of respect for their coach, and it’s just a good challenge playing a team like that. We just need to keep the mentality we had today and build on what we’re doing.”

“We just want to go into the Carlsbad game with the same intensity we had against Clovis and hopefully get that dub,” said Gonzales.