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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Despite changes, ‘The’ game remains the same

Posted

“What?!”

“Are you telling me the Cruces-Mayfield game is THIS Friday? And you’re talking about the Las Cruces High School-Mayfield High School FOOTBALL game?”

“But wait. Isn’t it too early?”

Those are reactions a lot of Las Crucens have had recently regarding the annual Trojans-Bulldawgs clash.

Yes, it’s true. The Mayfield-Cruces football game is this Friday, Sept. 17. Depending on when you’re reading this, it might even already be over.

And if you’re planning to walk up to the stadium and buy a ticket just before kickoff, think again. Only advance tickets.

And if you’re thinking the game’s going to be at Aggie Memorial Stadium, as it’s been for years, think again. It’s at the Field of Dreams.

If you went into a hibernation pod or science fiction sleep chamber in December 2019 and woke up in the past month or so, you might think the world has turned on its axis. (Actually, given the events of the past 18 months, there are probably a lot of us who might think a sleep chamber wouldn’t have been a bad place be during that time.)

For years, there were a few things you could always count on between summer and Thanksgiving in Las Cruces.

  1. Green chile season and the smell of roasters in front of the grocery stores.
  2. Students returning to New Mexico State University, bringing vibrancy and an economic boost to the region.
  3. Cruces and Mayfield playing in Aggie Memorial Stadium the first Friday in November.

So why is the game early this year?

Well, this is one thing you can’t blame on Covid.

Because of the changing residency patterns in Las Cruces, and the declining student population of Mayfield, the two high schools are no longer in the same classification. LCHS remains at 6A, but MHS is now in 5A. That means they are in different districts, and district games are always played at the end of the season.

A few years ago, Cruces-Mayfield was named one of the top high school football rivalries in the nation. The game lived up to it, as out-of-town alumni planned trips back home for the game. Dozens of families split their allegiances, with one parent from Mayfield and one from LCHS, or the parents from one school and the children from another. The energy and the cross-generational camaraderie in a packed Aggie Memorial Stadium were unmatched.

There are other things different about Cruces-Mayfield this year.

As you know, for many years, these were two of the top teams in the state, and as district rivals, that big rivalry game often determined the district championship, and seeding in the state playoffs.

Perhaps the peak of the rivalry came in 2013, when the two teams met for the state championship in Aggie Memorial Stadium. Both teams entered the game 11-1, and it was the 50th meeting between the pair. The game lived up to the billing, with the Bulldawgs eking out a 27-26 victory.

Each team has made a return trip to the championship (Mayfield in 2014 and LCHS in 2016) but neither has brought home another blue title trophy.

This year’s matchup may be the first time in generations neither team comes in with a winning record. Mayfield is 2-2, and LCHS is 1-3. Mayfield is ranked fifth in the state in 5A, and the Bulldawgs are ranked 17th in 6A. It’s weird to see neither team ranked No. 1 or No. 2. And it’s extra weird to see the Bulldawgs ranked behind No. 7 Centennial, a school that didn’t even exist until 2012.

There were times in years past the two teams entered the rivalry game undefeated. This year, both teams come into the game following a decisive loss. Last week, Mayfield lost to the aforementioned Centennial Hawks, 56-23. Las Cruces High School got drubbed on the road 42-7 by No. 1 ranked and undefeated Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho.

This will be the two teams’ second meeting in 2021. You may have missed their matchup last March, in the Covid-shortened spring schedule. The Bulldawgs won that 23-6. In the past, when the two teams played in the same calendar year, the second game was in the state playoffs. In addition to that 2013, showdown, the two also squared off for the state title in 2002, with LCHS winning. That 2002 year was special for our city, as Oñate High School won the 4A title that same season, giving Las Cruces three of the best teams in the state.

The last time the Trojans and Bulldawgs faced off in the fall was November 2019. It was a typical barnburner, with LCHS winning 21-18, despite a furious MHS comeback that saw the Trojans score 15 third-quarter points.

But nothing I’ve written so far means a thing.

Here’s what matters: This Friday, Las Cruces High School, clad in blue, white and red, will play football against the green and gold of Mayfield High School. The game will be for pride. It will be for bragging rights. And it will be for the fun of all the students, fans and alumni of the two schools.

For more details and info, see Page 35 in the sports section of this week’s Bulletin.