Matt Gracey never had anything close to a losing season during his years at Winslow High School.
His teams made an annual appearance in the Arizona State 3A Football Championship Playoffs. The Bulldogs fought their way to the state semi-finals twice and counted some enviable trophies among their victories.
Winslow defeated the mighty Blue Ridge Yellowjackets twice in the same season and three times in their last three meetings. No other team in Arizona can match that record against the Yellowjackets.
Gracey was a popular coach with his players. It became evident quite early in his tenure that he was a coach the players both liked and trusted. They played hard for him.
He surrounded himself with a top quality staff and allowed his assistants to make their valuable contributions.
There have been a number of Winslow High School players who have made their marks in the collegiate ranks since Gracey arrived on the scene. Included in this group are receiver Anthony (A.C.) Carter of New Mexico after a successful junior college career at Scottsdale Community, linebacker John L. Sullivan of Haskell Indian University, offensive guard Brandon Guzman of Scottsdale Community and offensive guard Adam Reeves of Mesa Community.
WHS senior Nick Anderson is already drawing major attention from college recruiters and will likely sign as his graduation date nears.
Gracey is known to like multi-sport athletes and encourages his players to stay in shape by competing in basketball, wrestling, baseball or track. It is not uncommon for a talented Bulldog gridder to win his scholarship in another sport.
Lucas Armenta was an outstanding receiver/defensive back in high school, but will be patrolling the outfield for Seminole, Oklahoma Community College next season. Current quarterback Jordan Payne is an excellent defensive back as well and is likely to attend college on a baseball scholarship. Both Payne and Armenta were heavy contributors to success on the basketball court as well.
There was a lot more to Matt Gracey than coaching and sports. He was very active in his church and conducted a successful Bible study on Monday nights at the First Baptist Church. He even filled the pulpit on several occasions when the church was between pastors.
On a personal note, I will miss Matt Gracey, Sarah and daughters Shelley and Cate a great deal. He was easy to work with as far as getting material for the paper was concerned, but he was also a good personal friend.
I would like to wish Matt, Sarah and the girls every success in his new position. He said he hated leaving Winslow, but saw the offer to coach at Port Angeles High School as an opportunity he could not afford to pass by.
The Winslow Bulldogs will be all right without Gracey. He recognizes that he is leaving his successor a potential state championship team. He will be missed by the players, the fans and all who have worked closely with him.
My prediction is that the Bulldogs will be very much in the state title hunt in 2005 and may well bring home the trophy Gracey would so much like them to have.
Good-bye and good luck, Matt. Winslow is a better place for having known you. I am proud to send you off with the most honorable title I know of "friend."