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New Mexico High School State Football Championships

Artesia, 28 ½ state football championships, Belen none when they kick off at Bulldogs’ field in Saturday afternoon’s 5A final, with 2nd seeded Eagles 12-0 and top-seeded at Artesia 10-2

Also Saturday afternoon, in 6A, its unbeaten Manzano against La Cueva, in 4A, Robertson is home to Ruidoso, in 3A undefeated Eunice awaits the challenge of Capitan
Arnie Leshin

By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today

Sizing up the state’s 5A football championship, in one corner, you have top-seeded Artesia, the state’s winningest high school team with 28 ½ titles, in the other you have undefeated 2nd seeded Belen with none.

While the Bulldogs have been taking care of business since hoisting their first championship trophy in 1957, the Eagles are 0-3, and that is 0-3 in the final. That’s it.

And it’s been a distance between the first two. In the Class A final in 1963, Belen had won 10 in a row but lost 3-0 on a field goal against New Mexico Military Institute. In 2009, 46 years later, the Eagles again took the field, this time undefeated in a dozen starts, but dropped the 4A final, 28-21, to Roswell Goddard.

But as Saturday afternoon’s championship comes into play, another barrier for Belen (12-0) to clear is the site, the home of the Bulldogs and a place where it’s tough to win, and the title game lose that is most familiar came in 2014 when Artesia won the 5A final 49-21. It wasn’t so much the result, but the size of it that has the Eagles faithful wanting this one badly.

The Bulldogs had two close contests along the way, but did not play Belen. The problem was that these two losses resulted in defeats, a 56-49 one at 6A Hobbs, and a 56-49 setback at 6A Rio Rancho Cleveland. In the state 6A tournament, the Storm overpowered Hobbs, 49-24. But the bottom line is that this program doesn’t fear scheduling these 6A schools.

As for the Eagles, they won their toughest tests, edging district rival Farmington, 35-28, on the road in overtime. The other was a 35-34 squeaker at district foe Los Lunas.

In the state tourney, Belen turned back 3rd seeded Roswell for the second time this season, 29-20, the first time at 29-7, and it also shut down defending state 5A champion Albuquerque St. Pius X, 35-0. The Bulldogs also defeated Roswell, 42-7, and St. Pius, 47-14, and avenged last season’s title game setback.

The win over St. Pius was in the state quarterfinals, and in the semis, Artesia advanced by rolling over Farmington, 47-22, on the road. Belen routed Miyamura, 45-21, and then came the triumph over Roswell.

The Eagles have to be the underdogs. Number one, the game is at Artesia, number two the tournament-tough Bulldogs have been there before, and number three, they have been on a recent high-scoring run.

It you wonder why they have won 28 ½ championships, well back in the 1987 3A final, the game against Lovington ended in a scoreless tie. Belen, though, wouldn’t even settle for that, it is in quest of title No. 1, and ties aren’t included.

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