By Greg Perkins
For area teams, the scrimmages are over and the new football season kicks off tonight (Aug. 30) with Holbrook, Winslow and Snowflake all taking to the field for the first time. Joseph City opens its season on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 31.
Holbrook travels to Winslow for another chapter of the I-40 rivalry which has been a book dominated by the hosting Bulldogs since the turn of the century. This year these two teams are playing in different divisions, with the Bulldogs remaining in Division IV, and the Roadrunners competing a notch lower in Division V. Despite playing at different levels, this match-up will still bring high emotion on both sides of the field.
Holbrook enters the season with a newfound confidence based on the overall outlook of a promising season populated by what should be numerous beatable opponents. In fact, the Bulldogs may well be the toughest team on Holbrook’s schedule all year.
The team has also had more players committed to off-season workouts this past summer, as well as a solid nucleus of senior players. A win in the opening week would be a huge jumpstart for the program.
Winslow is a younger team this year, but still has speed at the skill positions and a tradition of deep post-season runs over the past several years. The Bulldogs have scored more than 40 points on Holbrook in each of the past three seasons and are still probably the better team, but don’t be surprised if Holbrook makes this a closer game than it has been in the past several years.
Snowflake heads to Mingus tonight where the Lobos will face a Marauder team they handled easily last year. Both teams are coming off state playoff runs, with Mingus losing out in the second round to eventual champion Seton Catholic by just a touchdown and the Lobos getting shut out by Blue Ridge in the semifinal round. Both teams lost several key players to graduation, and while the Lobos have just six seniors on their roster, Mingus has 19. Two years ago Snowflake went to Mingus and eked out a 32-29 win. This game could also be very close.
Snowflake has a brutal schedule through the first three weeks and an opening week loss could be tough to overcome. Mingus will be looking to avenge the last two seasons’ losses to the Lobos and could get the job done tonight.
Joseph City has to wait until Saturday to get things underway. A long road trip to face the Sultans in a 2:30 p.m. kickoff could be a tough way to start. The Wildcats went 8-2 last year, which included a 56-45 shoot out win over Bagdad. They also defeated the Sultans twice the previous year and once again the year before that. Several familiar names are now missing from their roster, but the Cats always seem to find outstanding athletes year in and year out.
Coach John Bryant has just six seniors this season and if they want to do better than last year’s second round playoff exit, they need to start the season in a positive way.
By Greg Perkins