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Matadors, Badgers meet with WSFL title up for grabs
Damond Powell is fourth in the country in receiving. Breon Allen is second in rushing.
The duo has helped power Snow to the seventh most prolific offense in the NJCAA, and the high-flying Badgers brings its show south to Yuma at 7 p.m. Saturday for a game against Arizona Western with a Western States Football League title on the line.
Matador head coach Tom Minnick said this will be the toughest Badger team he's faced in his five-year stint at AWC.
“They're a pretty good football team,” Minnick said. “They have the best running back they've had in a long time, they have one of their best receivers in a long time. They have gotten more athletic on the offensive front and the defensive front. They've done a nice job recruiting some kids, and I think they do it to try to keep up with us and the athletes we've got. They haven't had those in the past. They're doing a pretty good job of that right now.”
Now he'll have to see if he can slay the beast he helped create. And it's not just Allen (1,490 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Powell (37 receptions, 1,044 yards, 13 touchdowns).
“Their linemen aren't fat and dumpy like they've had before,” Minnick said. “They're tall and skinny and athletic. They pose a lot of problems. They've got a good football team.”
The No. 7 Badgers (8-1 overall, 7-0 conference) have only lost at Georgia Military College this year. The Matadors (7-1 overall, 6-1 WSFL) lost two weeks ago at home to Glendale, costing them a chance for a return to the national championship game. Despite that, the Matadors can still win a share of the WSFL title with a win Saturday, creating a three-way tie between Glendale, Snow and AWC. It would be the fourth straight WSFL title for the Matadors.
“We have to come together as a family, play together, play smart,” said sophomore Nate Bartley. “Over the season we've been making some mistakes. We pretty much got to come out and ball hard, I guess, as a family.”
The Matadors bounced back from the overtime loss against Glendale with a 59-30 at New Mexico Military Academy, a game that was tied at 17 at halftime.
“On offense, we didn't know we were going to come out that strong,” wide receiver Andre O'Neil said. “We were a little rusty in the first half, but in the second half we knew what we wanted, knew what we needed, and we did it.”
Minnick said the Matadors were still shook up from the Glendale loss during the first half of the NMMI game.
“It still hurts because a lot of them see, shoot, we should be No. 2 right now, and having a chance to beat Snow for a national championship,” said Minnick, who has won the last three games against the Badgers including 14-7 in Utah last year. “Last week we started off slow, it still hurt. It was 17-17 at the half, and people started pointing fingers. We got them to settle down at halftime and playing together as a team again, and then we blow the out in them second half. I think it will carry over.”
The Matadors enter the game with the 16th ranked defense in the country. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy has been the team's leading rusher the past two weeks and is the 12th leading passer in the nation.
After Saturday's game, AWC officials will work on finding the Matadors an opponent for the El Toro Bowl on Dec. 1st at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The opponent will be announced Tuesday. Unlike last year, the game won't be for a national championship. Minnick was part of a coaching staff at College of Dupage that won 13 conference titles in a row — something he called “crazy.” Even though a national championship is out of the picture, Minnick said four straight conference titles is a heck of a consolation prize.
“It's hard to go undefeated every year. It really is,” Minnick said. “Even though it's our goal every year to get to the championship game — and you have to go undefeated to get to it, really — to win the conference, win it four times in a row, is even tough. ... Even if it is shared, hey it is what it is. You're at least the No. 1 team in the conference and you've won it four times in a row. It tells you something.”