by Dan Ford
ARTESIA: 3RD MOST TITLES, OR IS IT THE MOST?
As of today (May, 2016) the Artesia Bulldogs has won 29 state FOOTBALL championships. This is third among all high schools in the nation behind Sioux Falls Washington of South Dakota with 39 and Little Rock Central of Arkansas with 32.
However, I would contend that Artesia’s titles are greater than those schools ahead of them, and for good reason.
You would think that some eastern schools would have the most championship rings since they probably started a little earlier than the Midwest or Southwest cultures. Only Everett High School of Massachusetts ranks in the top ten with 28 titles from those far eastern states.
To understand why states west of the Mississippi have such dominate records, one needs to understand the growth of such states and how they evolved.
The beginning of football is generally stated as 1869 when the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton) played Rutgers. When those two New Jersey schools met you would hardly recognize the game. Over 20 players were on each side. There was no line of scrimmage. It probably looked more like rugby. It wasn’t until the 1880s that the game of football was easily recognizable. The game reached the west in the 1890s. Indeed, New Mexico’s first games were played in 1892 when UNM and the Albuquerque Indian School played each other. For the next decade there were only three or four games a year played by any school, culminating with a Thanksgiving Day game against rival schools or communities.
As the industrial revolution kicked into high gear at the turn of the century, Midwestern states started to grow but only one town would become a metropolis. Little Rock would dominate the Arkansas landscape and was located in the center of the state. Omaha would be the largest town in Nebraska, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma and Sioux Falls in South Dakota. It was also true that eventually Albuquerque would be the largest city in New Mexico.
So it goes that the largest cities had the largest high schools. Phoenix Union High School in Arizona would eventually have 6,300 students. It is not hard to imagine that they would win 95 state championships in all sports before the urban school closed in 1982. Albuquerque High was also a good example. The Bulldogs were the first to have a junior varsity or B squad and to hire assistant coaches in the state. They won more championships in all sports, probably just because they had more students and therefore more athletes to propel them forward.
In 1942 Capitan High had an undefeated team. So did Albuquerque High. They agreed to play each other. Sports writers, coaches, and fans alike suspected that there would be a difference between a big school and a little school on the gridiron and they were right. AHS won the game 25-0 while playing their JV players in the second half.
Little Rock Central was the largest and most prolific sports school in Arkansas in the early part of the 20th century. They won State four times before 1915. They have won top honors only three times in the past 30 years. (Little Rock Central is more famous as a civil rights platform in 1957 for integration than its 32 state titles).
Sioux Falls Washington (The Warriors) won 10 titles by 1924 and even today are one of only nine schools that compete in the largest school class in the state. While the Warriors are still a successful football power, there competitive status is questionable. They went 33 years (1977-2009) without winning a championship.
Artesia won its first title in 1957 as Reese Smith’s Bulldogs finished undefeated by beating Albuquerque Highlands in the championship game, 27-7. Prior to that Artesia was not very successful and only rarely could beat rivals Roswell, Carlsbad, Hobbs or Clovis. In 1957 LR Central already had a 22-title head start. Washington already had 25 trophies.
Conclusion: Artesia has won more state football championships than any high school in America since 1925 and didn’t even start until 1957. Take that, America!!