There probably has never been a football team that had a chance to do what the Winslow Bulldogs hope to accomplish on Friday at Mesa Community College. The Bulldogs will be going after their fourth win in a row over the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets in Friday's semi-final game of the Arizona State 3A Conference Championship Playoffs. The Bulldogs own three wins over the Yellowjackets, two coming in post season action. Winslow defeated Blue Ridge in the regular season in 2002 and again in the playoffs that year, then won a playoff game from the Yellowjackets in 2003. The teams did not play in 2004. The Blue Ridge football program under Coach Paul Moro has enjoyed such success that four losses in a four year period is almost a rarity.
Both teams will enter Friday's game with 11-1 records. Both survived strong challenges in their quarterfinal games. Both feature high scoring offenses and stingy defenses. Winslow reached the semi-finals with a 21-14 win over the Safford Bulldogs, surviving three fumbles, one at the Safford one yard line and another inside the 20 yard line. Blue Ridge edged Fountain Hills 14-6 despite allowing a crucial late on side kick to be successful. Both had handled their opening round opponents with relative ease.
Blue Ridge is led by senior running backs Frank Parkinson, Josh Coplan and Anthony Martinez, sophomore quarterback Bryan Williams, sophomore kicker Ryan Martinez and senior standout defensive back Bobby Barrington.
The Yellowjackets suffered their lone loss in a 15-7 upset by the Round Valley Elks. Blue Ridge owns wins over Fountain Hills 19-0, Coolidge 21-7, Valley Christian 23-14, Alchesay 56-8, Show Low 35-0, Holbrook 54-7, Payson 35-21, Tuba City 39-19, Snowflake 21-6, Seton Catholic 41-0 in a first round play-off game and Fountain Hills 14-6 in the quarterfinals.
Winslow lost only to Snowflake 20-19 early in the campaign. The Bulldogs own victories over Holbrook 40-14, Payson 34-21, Hopi 56-0, Monument Valley 52-0, Greyhills 50-8, Round Valley 21-17, Tuba City 49-6, Ganado 42-0, Window Rock 47-8, Sedona Red Rock 42-19 in a first round play-off game and Safford 21-14 in the quarterfinals.
Winslow has had to overcome injuries to senior star running backs Adrian Smith and Anthony Martinez, both of whom were lost for the season. The Bulldogs rely upon a number of talented seniors including quarterback Jordan Payne, receivers Matt Oso, Josh Stago and Josiah Atkinson, running backs Mario Peralto, tight end/kicker Kyle Holland, defensive stalwart Nick Anderson and linemen Lawrence Gorman, Lyal Scott, Corey Dean, Clint MacLean, Ryan Sullivan and Jeremy Huskey. Junior running backs Mark Armao and Justin Powell have been huge for the Bulldogs.
Perhaps the best news for Winslow fans was the coming of transfer receiver senior Johnny Butler, who has been Payne's most reliable target all season.
The winner of the Winslow-Blue Ridge contest will meet the winner of an earlier (5 p.m.) game between the Coolidge Bears and the Wickenburg Wranglers. Coolidge is 10-1 for the season and Wickenburg enters that contest at 11-1.