Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Opening district week in 5A football has the Artesia Bulldogs returning to the scene of where they were victimized in the playoffs. The Wool Bowl is where Roswell football added to its lore and the names of Ethan Valenzuela and Dylan Tucker will forever be mentioned in Coyotes’ football history.
In the span of 14 seconds and two plays, Valenzuela hit Tucker for a first down and a touchdown as time ran out, winning 48-42.
That victory was the first for Coyotes’ coach Jeff Lynn over Artesia in his six seasons. Last season’s Artesia football games have been the catalyst for an incredible run the Coyotes have been on. Roswell has not lost a game since their last defeat to the Bulldogs in the Bulldog Bowl, 36-35.
For Artesia head coach, Rex Henderson, he lost another game to Goddard with the clock ticking down in the Wool Bowl. That game saw Henderson running down the sidelines trying to call timeout as Goddard’s Jacob Wieser kicked the ball through the uprights with two seconds left in the game to beat Artesia, 31-28.
The Wool Bowl has not been good to Artesia in the last year. Make no mistake about it, the road to the District 5A championship is going to involve four teams: Roswell, Goddard, Artesia and Los Lunas. This is the time football fans have been waiting for. In the next three weeks, the only easy win on the schedule for all three teams is Alamogordo. The Tigers are rebuilding and have won more games this season (2) than they have in the last two seasons.
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Goddard will have the toughest road to the district championship because they play Artesia and Roswell in back-to-back weeks. Artesia and Roswell play each other and then Alamogordo before having to face Goddard.
In last season’s game in Artesia, the Bulldogs would end up scoring on their last possession. The Bulldogs lined up for a field goal to add the PAT. Instead of kicking the field goal, field goal holder Clay Houghtaling picked up the ball and hit a receiver, Braxton McDonald at the end of the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Roswell had one last chance to get a score, but Coyotes’ running back Justin Carrasco was injured on third down. He had rushed for 275 yards and was out of the game — Roswell couldn’t convert on fourth down. That loss for Roswell fueled them to go undefeated and win the championship.
This game will be a shoot out. Roswell will be tested on the defense, Artesia is easily the most diversified team Roswell will play in the remaining three games. Artesia is very similar to Los Lunas, so fans can expect that sort of game with both teams going up and down the field. Look for Artesia quarterback Clay Houghtaling to pass the ball to Johntae Rodriguez, Erik Cueto, Nathan, Jacob Barrera and Braxton McDonald.
This year, Artesia’s defense is down and has been involved in a lot of high scoring games. The Bulldogs have given up a lot of points this season. Lovington hung 52 points on them and if it were not for Lovington giving up a touchdown on the last play of the game, who knows what might have happened in overtime? The common opponent the teams have played this season is Ruidoso, who scored 46 points on Artesia last week. Hobbs scored 28 points and Belen scored 14 points.
This is week is going to be an ugly game for Alamogordo. Goddard might not even throw a pass and if they do, it will be to work on their passing game for the next two weeks. This is going to be a tuneup game before Artesia.
There is no way that Alamogordo is going to be able to be physical enough to stop the Wing T or any of the other looks Goddard has. Goddard has a perfect trio of running backs with Sammy “The Bull” Zaragoza, Rion “Mr.” Lee and quarterback Robert Aragon. Aragon is more of a running back than quarterback.
Lee has exploded onto the scene leaving many Goddard fans saying, “who knew?” he was capable of doing the things he has done in the last two games?” Lee has rushed for over 300 yards and five touchdowns in the last two games. Lee has the homerun speed to take a simple toss pitch 80 yards.
Zaragoza goes both ways but seems to run hard when his number is called. He has broken runs through sheer power. Goddard running backs seem to always be falling forward when they are running the ball. It’s very rare for an opposing team to tackle a Rocket runner with one hit.
Senior quarterback Robert Aragon has improved as a leader and player as the season has worn on. Aragon has mastered taking a quarterback sneak from under center and diving ahead to the left side of the guard and staying upright breaking tackles and getting through the second line of defense. In the last two games, he has run the quarterback sneak for 57 and 58 yards.
What has not been lost on opposing teams is the muscle of the Goddard O- and D-lines. As they go, so does both sides of the ball. The Rockets’ Larry Luna is no joke and plays with an attitude so much so that he has major colleges looking at him.
It would be easy to say that it is just Luna opening holes on the line, but that would not be accurate. The line features Jacob Smith, Anthony Panto, Caleb Burrell and Gabriel Beltran. The offensive line works as one unit where there is no discernible weakness.
The one thing Goddard cannot overcome during the stretch run is penalties and turnover. In their only loss of the season to Los Lunas, Goddard turned the ball over three times and had two scores taken off the board. When they play Artesia and Roswell, they have to fix those errors, or it could come back to haunt them.
Goddard plays a 44 stack defense that attacks teams. The defense has given up 40 points on the season. The defense with names like Ray Downs, Fernando Rubio at defense ends and Tim Burrell, Micah Cheatem, Luna and Gilbert Lucero stuffing running plays on the inside. Linebackers Aragon, Kaston Ramage are blitzing and stuffing the run. The defensive backs are Elijah Romero who has two interceptions and James Torrez has one. Cornerback Nate Stone and Rion Lee complete the defensive backfield. A big part of the defense was Hunter Beene. It is not known whether is out for the season or if he will return.
While this game will probably have a running clock by the third quarter, look for Goddard to work on things from Artesia in the following week.
This is a matchup of two evenly matched teams as they begin district play. New Mexico Military Institute is coming off a bye, while Dexter has to try and pick itself up after a defeat to Portales. Both teams want to try and run the ball and control the clock. In this game, No. 6 Dexter will host No. 7 NMMI at home in the Breast Cancer Awareness game at Dexter.
The playoff implications are huge for both teams as far as getting into the playoffs. Both teams have to face the No. 1-ranked Tularosa in the next two weeks.
Gateway Christian is coming off a loss to defending state champion Tatum. With two games left in their season, coach Shaun Wigley still has hopes of winning the next two games and making the playoffs. To do that, Gateway will have to win tonight against Melrose and then next week against Logan.
For Gateway Christian, that will be a tall task. They will have to figure a way to beat Melrose, which is 6-1 on the season and looking at top seeding in the playoffs.
Lake Arthur is on the cusp of making the playoffs, ranked at No. 6 in 6-man football. In possibly their last game of the season, the 3-5 Panthers are looking to finish the season strong. Lake Arthur has a legitimate chance this week as they face Carrizozo on the road.
Hagerman has improved to four wins for the second season in a row. Now they have to face the No. 1 team in Eunice on the road. Hagerman coach Guy Rivers has changed the culture there and is instilling expectations to win. Look for a more competitive game than the 51-0 loss at home last year.
Coach Rivers feels like his team has had a good week of practice.
“I told my team that the pressure is on them,” Rivers said. “They have to hold their ranking, not us. We have run the ball well this season. We’re still working on the little things with believing that little things will make a big difference.”
Rivers knows that to slow down Eunice’s spread offense and for Hagerman to have a chance to win the game, the Bobcats have to stop wide receiver Avante Stevens and left-handed quarterback Mason Caperton.
“We’re looking forward to a good game,” Rivers said.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.