The Winslow Bulldogs advanced to the semi-finals of the Arizona State 3A Conference Football Championship Playoffs with a 21-14 win over the Safford Bulldogs in Mesa on last Thursday. The win sent Winslow into a semi-finals match up with the top rated Blue Ridge Yellowjackets on Friday. Winslow improved its record to 11-1 for the season and Safford saw its season end with a 12-4 record.
Winslow scored the only points of the first quarter when Dillon DeWitt plunged into the end zone from a yard out with 2:05 left in the period. Kyle Holland converted for a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs had missed a golden scoring opportunity on their previous possession when they lost a fumble on the Safford one to end a 69 yard drive in disappointment. The defense held and Winslow took over at the Safford 42 to start the scoring drive.
Safford took advantage of a Winslow fumble at the 28-yard line and scored on a one yard run by Manny Jurado. The conversion tied the game at 7-7 with 9:52 left in the half. The score was set up by a 24 yard pass from Justin Gaethye to Andrew Angel.
Safford took a 14-7 lead with four minutes left in the half on a six-yard run by Jurado. The key play in that 42 yard drive was a third down pass from Gaethye to Angel.
Winslow regained the lead with 2:07 left when Jordan Payne ran four yards to score and a two-point conversion pass from Matt Oso to Mark Armao gave the Winslow Bulldogs a 15-14 lead that remained unchanged until the final period.
Winslow missed another golden scoring opportunity when a 68-yard drive ended with a lost fumble at the Safford 12 near the end of the third quarter. Payne intercepted a Safford pass to blunt a Safford Bulldogs drive early in the final period.
The final score of the game was set up when Johnny Butler sacked the Safford quarterback and caused a fumble that was recovered by DeWitt at the Safford 11. Three plays later Payne scored on a four yard run. The conversion failed and the 21-14 score was on the board.
Safford proved a worthy opponent with the passing of Gaethye, the running of Jurado and the receiving of Angel doing most of the offensive damage. Winslow used the passing of Payne to Butler and the running of Armao and DeWitt to keep the pressure on the Safford defense.
Winslow will meet Blue Ridge at 8 p.m. on Friday at Mesa Community College in the second semi-finals game. The Yellowjackets reached their berth with a hard fought 14-6 win over the Fountain Hills Falcons. The first semi-finals game is slated for 5 p.m. on the same field between Coolidge and Wickenburg. The Coolidge Bears advanced with a 34-7 win over the Round Valley Elks. The Wickenburg Wranglers reached with a 55-7 trouncing of River Valley.