The Winslow Bulldogs stormed back from a 14-0 half-time deficit to defeat the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets 19-14 and earn a berth in the Arizona State 3A Conference Football Championship Game. Winslow improved its record to 12-1 with the victory while the Yellowjackets ended their season with an 11-2 mark. It was the fourth straight win for Winslow over Blue Ridge, a feat that it is unlikely any other team has managed to accomplish. The Bulldogs will meet the Coolidge Bears for the State Championship at 7:07 p.m. on Saturday at McClinton High School in Tempe.
The game was a classic tale of two halves. The first two quarters were the best of times for the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets and the worse of times for the Bulldogs. The second half was Winslow's finest hour as the Bulldogs put up 19 unanswered points and shut down the Blue Ridge offense to seal the victory.
The Yellowjackets scored on the opening kick-off as Josh Coplan broke out of a scrum and raced 75 yards to pay dirt. Francisco Bonilla booted the conversion and Blue Ridge led 7-0 before a stunned crowd of spectators.
Winslow drove to within the shadow of the Blue Ridge goal post before losing the ball on downs at the three-yard line in the closing minutes of the first quarter.
Blue Ridge put together a brilliant 97-yard drive that took 23 plays, all but one on the ground, and ate up more than 11 minutes. Coplan scored on a one yard run and Bonilla converted with just 1:36 left on the clock and giving the Yellowjackets a 14-0 lead at the intermission.
The Bulldogs didn't return the second half kick-off for a touchdown, but Jordan Payne ran 80 yards on a quarterback draw on the first play from scrimmage and Kyle Holland converted to cut Blue Ridge's lead in half at 14-7 with 11:47 showing in the period.
Winslow had another promising drive end on a fumble at the Blue Ridge 13, but the Bulldogs defense held and a poor punt put the offense back in business at the Yellowjackets 35. Three plays later, Payne scored on a one yard quarterback sneak. Mark Armao ran for 21 yards and Payne ran for 13 to set up the score. The conversion was wide and Blue Ridge still led by the narrowest of margins 14-13 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs had a promising fourth quarter drive end on a missed 43-yard field goal attempt. A 15 yard chop block penalty inside the 10 yard line had stalled the drive and turned a potentially short attempt into a long one.
The Winslow defense held again and gave the offense a relatively short field to traverse. Payne, Dillon DeWitt and Armao chewed up valuable yardage as the Bulldogs drove 54 yards to take their first lead of the game on DeWitt's one yard plunge with 2:34 left in the contest. The two point conversion run failed, but the 19-14 final score was on the board.
The defense made its last big stand and ended defending state champion Blue Ridge's reign to set up a battle with the Coolidge Bears for the 2005 crown. Coolidge had taken a hard fought 27-20 win over the Wickenburg Wranglers in the first contest. Coolidge will bring an 11-1 record into Saturday's contest.