Friday night was Artesia’s first home game of the season at the Bulldog Bowl. The match up against the Hobbs Eagles seemed to be an easy game for them on paper. There was little thought the Eagles would pose much of a problem for the quick-strike offensive of the Bulldogs. Few thought the Eagles had a chance to win the game after coming off a 33-24 defeat to Clovis last week.
With an overflowing crowd on hand to welcome the Artesia home, the jacked-up Bulldogs came sprinting out of the locker room and did their customary dog-pile. By the end of the game, the Bulldogs would be dog-tired after playing catch-up all night to the explosive Eagles offense, losing 56-49, Friday night.
The game started with Artesia taking the opening kickoff and driving the length of the field, senior quarterback Taylor Null threw a 12-yard fade route to Bulldogs’ wide receiver AJ Estrada in the corner of the end zone to score while taking 1:56 off the clock. Junior Favian Carrasco added the PAT to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles came back on their first possession of the game and scored as Hobbs’ senior quarterback Gavin Hardison found Alec Finney for a 41-yard touchdown, kicker Enrique Ramirez would add the PAT to tie the game 7-7.
The Bulldogs could not consistently get pressure on Hardison as he lit up the Artesia’s defense for 622-yards and seven touchdowns. His favorite target on the night was Finney, who had 12 catches for 222-yards and two TDs. Hobbs would go into the locker room with a 35-21 lead as the Bulldog faithful sat stunned.
The Eagles received the ball in the ball in the second half and was held on three downs by the Bulldogs’ defense. On fourth-down, the Eagles lined up to punt, their kicker; Enrique Ramirez took the snap and ran to his right like he was going to kick the ball rugby-style. However, seeing an opening at the line of scrimmage Ramirez tucked the ball under his arms and ran for a first down at their own 29-yard line.
Hobbs would drive the length of the field and score on running back Tristan Kemp’s ran from the 6-yard line. The Bulldogs were down 42-21, and had to expend a lot of energy coming back. Hobbs never trailed in the game. It seemed like both teams would trade TDs with Artesia’s J.R. Bustamante scoring on a 31-yard run as the Bulldogs narrowed Hobbs lead 42-28.
At the start of the fourth quarter the Bulldogs seemed gassed, their defensive players were walking around with their hands on their hips from chasing the Eagles receivers around the field all-night long. With the Eagles driving the ball deep on Artesia’s territory, Hobbs’ quarterback Hardison threw a pass that was picked off in Artesia’s end zone by Bulldog safety Camren Saxon.
Saxon returned the ball to the Bulldogs 30-yard line. That interception gave life to Artesia as they rallied to drive down the field. Null hit wide receiver Chaney Hardt on a five-yard crossing route for a touchdown. Artesia’s TD made the score 56-41 with 9:00 minutes remaining in the game.
With renewed vigor Artesia’s defense picked up energy and held the Eagles offense to three-and -outs multiple times. With the ball on their own 20-yard line, Bulldogs’ quarterback Null was forced out of the pocket running to his right; Null stopped and planted his feet and threw the ball as far as he could, Bulldogs’ wide receiver Jacob Orona was wide open getting behind Hobbs defensive back.
Orona had to wait on the ball as it sailed slowly through the night air, the ball came down in his arms at the 10-yard line. Orona made a guy missed crossed to the left side of the field picked up a block from a teammate carried two Eagles defensive backs into the end zone to score. Carrasco added the PAT as the Bulldogs trailed 56-49 with 4:24 in the game.
The Bulldogs had the momentum and forced a three-and-out. The Bulldogs got the ball back and drove to the Eagles 20-yard line before they were met with stiff resistance forcing Artesia to go for it on fourth down and seven. Artesia came up inches short, turning the ball over on downs.
Two plays ended the hopes of a Bulldogs victory. One was on fourth-and 13, with 3:05 left in the game. Eagles’ quarterback Hardison rolled to his left, unable to find a receiver open; Hardison tucked the ball and ran for a 13-yard gain and a first down.
The other play was on the same drive. Hobbs had a fourth-and-15 from the 38-yard line of Artesia. Hobbs’ Hardison threw the ball to a wide-open Semaj Cotton for a first down with 31 seconds left in the game forcing the Bulldogs to use their time outs.
Artesia quarterback Taylor Null was 30-of-44 passing for 486 yards and four touchdowns with an interception. Null threw the ball to a variety of receivers.
Estrada had nine receptions-for 149-yards and one TD. Orona added five catches-for 147 and one TD. Bustamante added six catches for 91 yards and one TD, and Hardt had a TD catch. Bulldogs’ running back Robert Fernandez gained 107 -yards on the ground and scored three TDs.
Hobbs: 14-21-14-7 = 56
Artesia: 7-14-13-15 = 49
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Taylor Null 486 yards passing and four touchdowns.
TURNING POINT: The Eagles defense stopped Artesia on fourth-down and seven at the Eagles 20-yard line with 4:00 minutes remaining in the game.
KEY MOMENT: Artesia’s inability to stop Hobbs and get the ball back on Hobbs’ last possession.
Artesia hosts Valencia at 7 p.m. on Friday.