ARTESIA — Mike Phipps, Jeremy Maupin and Adrian Olivas are part of a unique group of people.
All three joined scores of Artesia Bulldog fans and some Belen Eagle fans Saturday afternoon to witness New Mexico history and that was the Bulldogs claiming state title No. 30.
The Bulldogs (11-2) downed the Eagles (12- 1) 48-14 to claim the 5-A title. The Bulldogs have won the most titles in New Mexico Activities Association history. According to NMAA records, official championships weren’t recognized in the state until 1950.
Phipps played in one of those championship games. He also was a head coach in some and others he witnessed as the superintendent of the Artesia Public Schools.
“It’s extremely exciting to watch these young athletes excel and grow up and became men,” Phipps said of the Bulldogs of today. “It’s a real warm feeling for me to know way back there I might have had a bit of a hand in it at one point.”
“Thirty state championships in 60 years, that’s unbelievable,” Phipps added.
Phipps coached at Artesia High School from 1974 to 1983. “The athletes that I coached won seven state titles and they did a real good job during those years.”
Phipps played for the Bulldogs from 1962 to 1964. During his last season, Phipps said Artesia beat Albuquerque Highland for the 2-A state championship.
“That was quite a ballgame,” he said. “It was on Thanksgiving Day, that was Artesia’s second state championship.”
Phipps worked for APS from 1970 to 2012. The last 20 years of his tenure he was the superintendent.
Jeremy Maupin and Adrian Olivas appear to be following in the steps of Mike Phipps.
“I’m pumped for these kids,” Maupin said. “I got to coach some of these kids for the last couple of years, they played a really good game and had a good season.”
Maupin said Bulldog football,”is a part of you and when I was playing I got to be in the 23rd and 24th state championships, so it just means a lot and I get to come back and watch them win No. 30.”
Earlier this year, Maupin left Artesia to take the head coaching job at Los Lunas, one of Belen’s intra-county rivals.
“It’s very exciting,” Olivas said of the victory.
He played for the Bulldogs from 2000 to 2002 and was part of a state championship team in 2001. These days Olivas is the head coach at Hagerman High School.
In addition to winning title No. 30, Artesia made their 35th appearance in the state title game. District rival Lovington and Clovis have made 22 appearances over the years.
During the game, it looked like Belen was about to spoil the fun for Artesia. On the opening drive, the Eagles took a lot of time off the clock thanks to the running of junior fullback Diego Casillas and some pass plays as well. Casillas scored the first points of the afternoon on a 2-yard run with 3:57 showing on the clock. The extra point kick was good and it was 7-0 Belen.
The Eagles defense stopped Artesia on their opening drive and the Bulldogs returned the favor on Belen’s second offensive series of the opening period.
In the second quarter, Artesia’s offense was able to get in gear as senior quarterback Taylor Null hit fellow senior Chaney Hardt on a 5-yard pass. The extra point kick was good and the score was 7-7 with 8:24 left before intermission.
Belen couldn’t mount anything on their first offensive possession of the quarter and the Bulldogs were able to break the deadlock at the 2:45 mark of the second stanza as Null scored on an 11-yard run. The extra point kick was good and Artesia led 14-7.
A Belen fumble on their next offensive series set up another Null score. It was a 12-yard run in the closing seconds of the first half. The extra point kick was good and Artesia led 21-7.
Artesia received the opening kick in the second half and some key passes by Null set up the next touchdown of the game as senior Robert Fernandez scored on a 7-yard run. The two-point conversion failed and it was 27-7 Artesia with 8:43 left in the third quarter.
Belen’s offense was able to get on the rails on their opening drive of the third period as Casillas scored on an 11-yard run. The extra point kick was good and it was 27-14 Artesia with 4:32 showing on the scoreboard.
The Eagles stopped the Bulldogs on their second offensive drive of the third period. Belen’s offense fumbled deep in Artesia territory toward the end of the quarter and that set the Bulldogs up for another score.
Senior Joe Willingham caught a 63-yard strike from Null in the opening seconds of the final period. The extra point kick was good as the Bulldogs were starting to get away from the Eagles as the score was 34-14.
Belen’s first offensive drive of the fourth quarter went south as senior Denver Williams picked off an Eagle pass. That set up Artesia’s next touchdown as Willingham scored on a 34-yard reception. The extra point kick was good and it was 41-14 Artesia with 5:33 left in the game.
Artesia was able to put the game on ice with 1:40 showing on the clock as senior Aaron Flores scored on a 9-yard reception. The extra point kick was good and it was 48-14 Artesia.