The Winslow Bulldogs appear likely to cruise through the meager opposition offered by 3A North Region opponents and enter the Arizona State Football Championship Playoffs as the region's top seed. That will insure a first round playoff game at Nasser Stadium on Nov. 4.
The Bulldogs have enough weapons to be legitimate championship contenders. Unfortunately, they may be missing some important ingredients that have been lost since the beginning of the season. The loss of Adrian Smith very early in the season opener at Holbrook was felt in the team's only loss at Snowflake and will remain a problem. Smith was the team's most dangerous running threat and an excellent defender. Now, with another tough running back, Anthony Martinez, out with an injury, the team is forced to convert players from other positions to fill the gap.
Nick Anderson is a top quality football player whether he is lining up on the line or in the backfield. He sailed by 100 yards rushing at Monument Valley in his first such appearance since his freshman year. He will continue to do the job even as the competition gets tougher. The questions come when he or another player gets dinged and needs to come out of the game for a while.
Jordan Payne may well be the best quarterback playing 3A football. He is certainly a force to be feared by Winslow opponents. He is blessed with a complement of talented receivers which should make the Bulldogs a team that can pressure an opponent on the ground and through the air.
The Winslow defense has been solid and should continue to be. Justin Powell is a powerful force on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He, too, has been seeing action as a running back. No opponent is likely to relish the thought of having that big, strong man coming at him with a full head of steam.
Perhaps the best things that have happened for new head coach Adam Larsen were the arrival of two excellent senior transfers. Receiver/defensive back Johnny Butler has quietly become the "go to" guy for Payne. The move Butler made to get open for the pass that gave the Bulldogs their second touchdown at Snowflake was as good as you will ever see.
It was Butler who made the key plays that brought Winslow back and gave the Bulldogs a chance to win in that contest. He has also proven to be a dangerous runner when the Bulldogs choose to employ the infrequently used end around play.
Kyle Holland did not come to Winslow as a football player, but he has become a talented receiver and an extremely valuable place kicker for the team. Holland has already made two field goals of over 40 yards. He has the potential of being the deciding factor when the Bulldogs find themselves in a close game in the playoffs.
The Bulldogs are still not generating much respect from the persons who rank football teams statewide. Don't let that fool you. Winslow is among the best teams in its class in Arizona. The loss to Snowflake wasn't really a fluke as the Lobo quarterback had a career night and the Bulldogs made some crucial mistakes. It was, however, a game in which the best team did not win.
Winslow's game with Round Valley on Friday will give a much better indication of where the Bulldogs should rank in the state. The Elks are, in my opinion, the only team other than the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets from the 3A East Region with much chance to beat the Bulldogs. This game should be a dandy. Don't miss it.