The Winslow Bulldogs prevailed over the Tuba City Warriors 56-39 in a wild 3A North Region football game played in Tuba City on Thursday. The win left the Bulldogs with a 7-1 record for the season and a perfect 5-0 record in the region. It was Tuba City's second loss in the region.
Winslow struggled early and needed a series of huge plays by the defense and special teams to erase a Tuba City lead and avoid an upset.
Efrim Kinlecheenie came up with two huge long touchdown runs on a kickoff return and a pass interception and run. The Winslow defense set up yet another score on a blocked punt by Kirk Ramsey as the Bulldogs got huge play from the defenders and special teams. Ray Grabowski added yet another defensive touchdown with a 68 yard run with an intercepted pass.
The Warriors scored first on a 23 yard pass from Bucky Navajo to George Manygoats. Navajo converted for a 7-0 Tuba City lead.
Winslow got on the board when Justin Powell recovered a fumble in Warrior territory and ran the last seven yards to score. The conversion run failed and Tuba City still led 7-6.
Tuba City ended the first period scoring on a one yard run by Mathew Shirley. The conversion failed and the Warriors had a 13-6 lead going into the second quarter.
Shirley scored again on a 10 yard run and the Warriors led 19-6 after the conversion failed.
Kinlecheenie followed with one of the biggest plays of the game when he returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards to score. Matt Smith passed to Marshall Baldwin for the two point conversion that cut the lead to 19-14.
Ramsey made the next big play for the Bulldogs, blocking a Warrior punt at the 15 yard line. Powell cashed in with an 11 yard run and Winslow had its first lead of the night at 20-19 after the conversion run failed.
Grabowski made yet another huge play for the Bulldogs' defense, intercepting a Warrior pass and returning it 68 yards to score. The run failed and Winslow led 26-19.
Navajo brought the Warriors to within one when he hit Michael Mathias with a 47 yard scoring pass. The conversion run failed and Winslow led just 26-25.
Mark Armao ended the prolific first half scoring with a 17 yard run that gave Winslow a 34-25 lead after Powell ran for a two point conversion.
The Warriors got the only score of the third quarter late in the period. Shirley got into the end zone on a six yard run. The conversion pass was nullified by an offensive interference penalty and Winslow took a narrow 34-31 lead into the final period.
Armao ran 10 yards for the first score of the fourth quarter and a Smith to Powell two point conversion increased the lead to 42-31.
Kinlecheenie broke the Warriors' heart with his 100 yard interception return after they had driven to the Winslow two yard line. Armao added the two point conversion for a 50-31 Winslow lead.
The Warriors were not through as Alex Reid scored on a one yard run and Navajo passed to Mathis for a two point conversion to cut the margin to 50-39.
Winslow added the final score in the closing seconds on a two yard run by Armao. The conversion failed and the 56-39 final was on the board.
Both teams had over 500 yards of total offense, but it was the special teams and defensive touchdowns by Winslow that made the difference.
The Bulldogs can clinch the 3A North Region title with a win on Friday against Ganado. That game is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Winslow and will be Seniors Night for the Bulldogs.