EAGAR, Ariz. - The Round Valley Elks edged the Winslow Bulldogs 33-27 at Eagar on Friday in the season opener for both teams. The game was much closer than expected and was not decided until the final buzzer. The Bulldogs were surprisingly strong considering that they were playing without their star quarterback and corner back Kraig Shirley, who suffered a broken collar bone in the controlled scrimmage with Show Low.
Reserve quarterback Payden Zufelt was excellent in place of Shirley at quarterback and on defense. Round Valley's star quarterback Chantz Davis was the major weapon for the Elks who displayed an effective passing game but were stymied in their ground attack. The Bulldogs were not only competitive but had a chance to win in the closing seconds against the tough 3A East Region Elks, a team that figures to be a state championship contender. The results should have been pleasing to Winslow fans despite falling short on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs drove for a score the first time they touched the ball and tallied on a 24-yard run by Wendell Carter. Aaron Martin booted the conversion for a 7-0 lead with less than two minutes gone off the clock. The key play in the drive was a long, third and 10 pass from Zufelt to Bubba Cuellar.
Round Valley marched nearly 70 yards, mostly on passes, and scored on an 11-yard pass from Chantz Davis to Rulon Udall and a conversion that tied the score. The Elks intercepted a pass and scored again on a 24-yard pass from Davis to Shad Lindsay. The conversion gave them a
But Carter ran 51 yards to tie the score after the conversion just seconds before the first quarter ended with the game tied at 14-14.
The Elks got the first score of the second quarter on an eight yard pass from Davis to Udall. The conversion was blocked and the Elks led 20-14.
Zufelt intercepted two passes in the quarter and returned the second one 45 yards for a score. The conversion failed, though, and the game was tied again at 20-20 and remained tied at the intermission.
Round Valley scored quickly on the first drive of the second half on a four-yard run by Sean Lindsay. The score was set up by a 65-yard Davis pass. The conversion gave the Elks a 27-20 lead. Davis passed one yard to Rulon Udall on fourth down to score after setting up the touchdown on a 37-yard pass. The conversion failed and the Elks led
33-20, a lead that held through the third quarter. The Winslow defense had held the Elks from the five yard line before the fourth down scoring pass.
The next score didn't come until only 4:34 was left in the game when Wendell Carter capped a 97-yard, time consuming drive with a three yard run. The conversion cut the lead to 33-27. Winslow had an opportunity to tie or win the game after an interception by Aaron Martin with 1:37 left to play but the Elks got the ball back on an interception and ran out the clock to preserve the close victory.
The Bulldogs will host the Tuba City Warriors on Friday in their first 3A North Region game of the season. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Nasser Stadium. With the good showing by Zufelt and the defense especially against Round Valley, a win Friday would leave Winslow in good position for a run at another regional title and as a contender for the state crow. Tuba City lost 40-14 to the 2A Hopi Bruins at Polacca on Friday.