Cougars oust Bulldogs from state playoffs

GILBERT, Ariz. - The Show Low Cougars held off the Winslow Bulldogs second half comeback effort to win an Arizona State 3A Conference Football Playoff game played at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert on Saturday.

The loss ended Winslow's season with a 10-2 record and left the 3A North Region with no representative in the semi-final round.  Show Low will take an 8-3 record into the semi-finals against the winner of the Snowflake-Fountain Hills winner. Both of those teams defeated the Cougars in regular season play.

The Cougars dominated the first half as they scored 28 points and built a two touchdown 28-14 advantage. Show Low scored after the second half kickoff and pushed their lead to 35-14 early in the third quarter.

Winslow came alive in the second half and especially the fourth quarter when they scored their last two touchdowns and had a late drive that could have tied the game.      

After some mistakes early in the opening period, both teams scored in the closing moments of the first quarter. Show Low took a 7-0 lead on a four-yard run by Cody Bell and a conversion by Trevar MacArthur.

Winslow came right back on their next possession to tie the game at 7-7 on a one yard run by Kraig Shirley and the conversion by Aaron Martin. The teams entered the second period tied.

Show Low went back on top again on a five-yard run by MacArthur and his conversion in the first minute of the second quarter.  Quarterback Rathen Ricedorff passed 15 yards to Tyler Vought for another touchdown and the conversion increased the lead to 21-7.

Winslow got that score matched when Shirley scored his second touchdown of the game on a nine yard run and Martin's conversion cut the lead to 21-14.

The final score of the first half came on a most unusual play. Ricedorff had his pass batted into the air. He caught the ball and ran into the end zone for a four-yard scoring pass to himself. The conversion game the Cougars a 28-14 lead at the intermission.

The Cougars drove 70 quickly down the field to score on a seven yard Ricedorff pass to Jacob Daniell pass after receiving the second half kickoff. The conversion increased their lead to a seemingly commanding 35-14 early in the third quarter.

Winslow cut into that margin early in the final period on a 10 yard run by Chayse Russell. The conversion cut the lead to two touchdowns at 35-21 with most of the quarter left to play.

Winslow became more determined and desperate as the time left to play got inside the 10-minute mark, the Bulldogs gambled on a fourth and long situation and made the important first down. That kept the game in play as the Bulldogs drove deeply into Cougar territory where they had to connect on a fourth and 12 play to keep the drive alive. Russell scored on a fourth down and one play to cut the lead to 35-28 after the conversion with five minutes still left to play.

Winslow got the ball back near midfield with over three and a half minutes left in the game. The Bulldogs drove until the drive was hurt by a penalty and ended on downs. Show Low had little enough time left to take a couple of knees and win the hard-fought game.

The Bulldogs loss left the 3A North Region without a team still in the playoffs, but their comeback effort earned plenty of respect.

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