The Fountain Hills Falcons eliminated the Winslow Bulldogs from the Arizona State 3A Conference State Tournament with a 43-27 victory. The Bulldogs ended their season with an 8-4 record for the season. The Falcons moved to the semi-finals to meet the winner of the Blue Ridge-Estrella Foothills game. The Winslow loss eliminated the last of the 3A North Region teams from the tournament.
Fountain Hills dominated the first three periods but Winslow scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and left no doubt that they had the heart to fight back and make a game of the contest.
The Falcons drove 68 yards in nine plays on their first possession and took a 7-0 lead. Beau Hilgeman caught a 40 yard pass from Connor Brinton at the Winslow one and plunged into the end zone on the next play. Steve Langston converted to up the lead to 7-0.
Hilgeman also got the first score of the second quarter on a three yard run that capped a 13 play, 85 yard Fountain Hills drive. Langston converted for a 14-0 lead.
Winslow threatened for the first time in the contest moments later but a fumbled snap prevented a makeable field goal attempt.
Langston ended the first half scoring with a 22 yard field goal with only seconds left in the quarter. The 49 yard drive that set up the score came after the Bulldogs failed on a fourth and three play. A successful gamble would have given the Bulldogs an opportunity to narrow the gap before the intermission.
The Falcons drove 76 yards to start the third quarter and scored on a 10 yard run by Michael Craig. Langston's conversion increased the lead to 24-0. Bryce Scanell scored on a 17 yard run for the second Falcon touchdown of the quarter after Chase Peterson picked up a Winslow pass near midfield.
The conversion failed and Fountain Hills led 31-0.
Ethan Hodge scored on a five yard run for the Falcons early in the final quarter. The conversion failed and the lead was 37-0.
Chayse Russell scored from two yards out to put Winslow on the scoreboard and cap a 41 yard drive set up by a long kickoff return by Wendell Carter. Stacey Berg converted to cut the Fountain Hills lead to 37-7.
There was no give up in the Bulldogs as they held the Falcons to three and out and then scored on a long 65 yard pass from Kraig Shirley to Stacey Berg. Berg's conversion cut the lead to 37-14.
Brinton scored on a five yard run to increase the Fountain Hills lead to 43-14 as the conversion failed. He had completed a long pass one play before the score.
Winslow scored its third touchdown of the fourth quarter on an 82 yard pass from Shirley to Carter. The pass was tipped by the intended receiver Zack Zufelt but then caught by Carter who sprinted to the end zone. The conversion failed and Fountain Hills still led 43-20.
The Bulldogs kept fighting and recovered an on-side kick after their score, but less than two minutes remained in the game. Anthony Huerta ran the ball into the end zone on the play, but could not legally advance the muffed kick.
Winslow made the most of their late opportunity and scored on a six yard pass from Shirley to Wyatt DeWitt. The conversion cut the deficit to 43-27 with just over a minute left on the clock. This time, the on-side kick was recovered by the Falcons who were able to run out the clock and claim the win.