The Winslow Bulldogs battled their way into the semifinals of the Arizona State 3A Conference Football Championship Playoffs with a 34-14 win over the Fountain Hills Falcons at Mesa Community College on Friday. The win sent Winslow into the semifinals against defending champion Coolidge with an 11-1 record for the season. Coolidge reached the semifinals by annihilating the Round Valley Elks 50-21.
Mark Armao recorded the first score of the game on a three yard run with 5:59 left in the first quarter. The play capped an eight play 69 yard drive and gave Winslow a 6-0 lead. The conversion kick failed and that was the only score of the first period.
Winslow added a defensive touchdown with 9:10 left in the half when Marshall Baldwin recovered a Fountain Hills fumble in the end zone. The recovery came after a bad snap sailed over the Falcon punter's head, Kirk Ramsey knocked the punter off the ball and Baldwin outfought him for the recovery. A two point conversion attempt failed and Winslow led 12-0, which was still the score at the intermission.
Fountain Hills put together its best drive of the contest to start the second half. The Falcons marched 70 yards and scored on an eight yard run by Rob Rossfeld with 6:53 left in the third quarter. Chase Peterson booted the conversion that cut Winslow's lead to 12-7.
The Bulldogs had their own bad snap sail over punter Kevin Berg's head, but he recovered and returned the ball from near the goal line to the Winslow 24 where the Falcons took over. A crucial defensive stand got the ball back and the Bulldogs went on a 57 yard scoring drive.
Armao scored his second touchdown of the game on a three yard run with only 25 seconds left in the third quarter. Matt Smith ran for the two point conversion that gave the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead.
The next time the Bulldogs had the ball they drove 59 yards to score on a one yard run by Justin Powell. The conversion run failed by Winslow still led 26-7 with 8:15 remaining in the contest.
Fountain Hills drove 83 yards for their final score of the game which came on a 30 yard pass from Kail Brinton to Josh Trulson. The conversion kick cut the lead to 26-14 but only 2:46 remained on the clock when an on side kick failed.
The Bulldogs didn't sit on their lead as Powell passed 48 yards to Armao for the insurance touchdown that increased the lead to 34-14 after Smith's two point conversion run.
Armao and Powell were outstanding on both offense and defense. Armao was the work horse with well over 150 yards rushing while Powell pounded out tough yardage in critical situations. Both delivered dozens of punishing tackles on defense.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Smith played with maturity directing the potent Bulldogs offense. David Young, Kevin Ramsey, Joseph Larsen, Anthony Petranovich and Gilbert Romero all had outstanding games on defense.
The Bulldogs will face a formidable challenge in the defending champion Coolidge Bears whom they will meet at 8 p.m. on Friday at Mesa Community College. The Bears are a speedy and talented team which totally dominated a previously undefeated Round Valley squad.