The Las Cruces Bulldawgs and Mayfield Trojans meet again this Friday in the annual rivalry football game played at Aggie Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.
Per usual, the contest will be big in the standings - each team stands at 3-0 in District 3-5A play, meaning the showdown is for the league championship - and big in the community, with a large crowd anticipated once again. As kickoff approaches, here's a look at key elements to watch for as city rivals square off.
1. Running the ball: This goes for both teams. For LCHS, it's simply their identity, a team that's won state championships with such a mantra and is averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground in 2013. As for the Trojans, they have some running backs of their own, and QB Kavika Johnson is a gifted ball carrier. A good rushing attack would allow Mayfield to control the ball, while opening up play-action passing and hopefully keeping the game a low-scoring one.
2. Turnovers: Statistics figure the Trojans need to finish plus-two to plus-three in turnover margin in Friday's game. It's simple logic, considering Mayfield is the proverbial underdog on paper, meaning takeaways and ball protection figure to play key roles. Ditto for the Bulldawgs, at least if they want to increase their advantage. The nature of this contest typically suggests turnovers are, have and always will play a major factor. Friday night shouldn't be different in this regard.
3. Kameron Miller vs. Trojans secondary: The Bulldawgs sophomore quarterback has shown good progress this year, although the team doesn't necessarily ask him to win games either. With his supporting cast, Miller simply needs to be solid most nights. Friday's contest, however, is against a Trojans team that's struggled in pass defense this season. Will the Bulldawgs be able to hit some big plays through the air? And will Mayfield be able to pressure the young signal caller?
4. Who blinks first?: The Bulldawgs haven't played in many, if any close games this year, outscoring the opposition by an average of 46-7. Will they be over-confident? And how will they respond to adversity if and when it hits? For Mayfield, it's about competing and trying to lay the first blow. Hard facts entering Friday's contest: LCHS has won five of six meetings between these two rivals. Whichever team's more focused and disciplined in this one likely wins.
5. Why the game is played: Again, Las Cruces High is the figured favorite entering Friday's game. LCHS is 9-0 on the season (Mayfield sits at 8-1), is ranked No. 1 in the state (Mayfield is No. 4) and has been trouncing the opposition this year. Nothing can be discounted in this game, however. The Trojans need to win key categories to spring an upset, though: establishing a running game, forcing turnovers and the trick-play element all figure as such.