For the first time in about as long as a football fan can recall, the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets will not be participating in the Arizona State football tournament final four.
The Yellow Jackets’ quest to earn a berth in the state semifinals was put to a rest by a 7-6 quarterfinal loss to the Winslow Bulldogs Friday evening at Mesa College.
The Dogs’ victory over Blue Ridge was the second of the season. In September, Winslow’s 10-0 drubbing of Blue Ridge ruined the Yellow Jackets’ homecoming.
With the win, Winslow (10-1) advances to play Globe (10-1) Friday evening at Mesa.
In the other semifinal, East region runner-up Snowflake takes on South champion Coolidge.
As the lone remaining East team in the tournament, the Lobos will shoulder the burden of keeping intact the region’s reputation as the best in the state.
No dogs here
The Bulldogs’ surprising win over Blue Ridge could mark the return of the glory years Winslow enjoyed under legendary coach Emil Nasser.
From 1947 to 1981, coach Nasser put together a 227-91-8 mark that eventually earned him a spot in the inaugural Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
During his 35-year stay as head coach of the Bulldogs, Nasser fielded some of the finest football teams in the state.
In prep football circles, Nasser was legendary. A no-nonsense, hard-nosed coach, Nasser did things his way, regardless of what others thought of his methods.
As great a coach as he was, Nasser eventually was forced to wade through some resistance from the school administration and parents.
After he stepped down, Winslow went through three different head coaches before finally hiring former Williams and Snowflake coach Rich Hoyt.
In 1994, Hoyt got the Dogs back in the state tournament but when Hoyt resigned a few seasons later, Winslow again fell upon hard times.
Under new coach Matt Gracey, the Bulldog football program appears to have regained some of the luster Nasser instilled in it.
This one is for prep football trivia buffs.
Prior to the arrival of Emil Nasser in Winslow, what coach helped build the Bulldog football program into a state power?
The answer: Bill Armstrong.
Winslow hired Bill Armstrong, father of Payson rodeo boss and businessman Bill Armstrong Jr., in 1943. In his first season, he led Winslow to an 8-1 record and the conference title. During his three years of coaching, Armstrong was 20-2-2.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association is looking for wrestling and basketball officials.
Prospective officials should contact the AIA for a packet of registration materials. You can do that by calling the AIA at (602) 385-3774.