LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – Las Cruces High School football turned a lot of heads towards the end of 2021. After starting the season 1-3, the Bulldawgs turned it around win six of their next eight. Two of those wins came in the NMAA 2021 6A State Football Championships. The Bulldawgs took down Clovis and Centennial to punch their ticket to the semifinal round before losing to the eventual state champions in Cleveland.

In 2022, the Bulldawgs are hoping to prepare a young team to compete at the top like years before. Head coach Mark Lopez tells KTSM that he is only returning two starters from the offense from last year and six on the defensive side of the ball. Lopez and his staff look to implement new, young talent into the system as they head into the season.

“We’ll be starting a few sophomores on our offensive line, which is really unusual for us, so yeah we have a lot of guys that will be playing varsity for the firs time,” said Lopez. “Whether they are sophomores or juniors, even a couple of seniors are playing varsity for the first time. Yeah, we are going to be young but hopefully once we get a couple of games under our belt, we’ll be right up there.”

Even with the growing pains of building a team with only few returners and new talent, the Bulldawgs are still focused on being the best team they can be as the season goes on.

“We want our expectation to be state champions but right now we want to focus on week by week,” said junior linebacker Ricardo Andrade. “We do not want to get ahead of ourselves or anything like that. Coaches are always telling us to be focused.”

Our expectations are always the same. We want to compete for a state championship. We don’t shy away from that,” said Lopez. “That is an overarching goal. I think our guys and our coaches do a great job of focusing on every day understanding that even though your big goal is a state championship, you can’t win that today, you can’t win it tomorrow. You can only do what you can do every day to try to give yourself a chance at the end of the season, but that is our goal. We want to go win a district championship, then win a state championship and we’re not afraid to say that.”

Las Cruces will open up their season at Volcano Vista on Friday, Aug. 19 at 7:00 p.m.