Matador football ready for season opener
Instead of starting the season at home with an easy win against a semipro team, things got a little tougher for the Arizona Western football team.
The Matadors open their season today against Ellsworth (Iowa) in Pueblo, Colo., part of a three-game slate between Western States Football League and the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference.
The Panthers already have a scrimmage under their belts. It doesn't sound like much, but it's more than the Matadors, who haven't seen someone not wear cardinal and gold since they left the field after the El Toro Bowl, a 55-47 loss to East Mississippi in the national championship game in December.
“We need to just go and play well,” AWC coach Tom Minnick said. “We haven't played anyone, or scrimmaged anybody. I think the kids will come out and hit some people because they've got the opportunity to do that. And it's going to be difficult because you're playing a team from another conference and don't know what they do or anything like that. In the meantime, just getting out there, and playing, and getting used to it — we might struggle the first quarter or so, but I think once we get going we'll be on track like we usually are.”
Minnick said there haven't been any late-camp surprises — the starters he thought would be on the field a week ago will take the field today. That includes Yuma High grad J.C. Baker at running back, although he'll share time with fellow sophomore Teddy Monroe in the backfield. Cedrick McCloud, a transfer from Akron, will handle quarterback duties.
On defense, Randy Gregory moves from the defensive line to linebacker to strengthen a depleted corps.
Minnick said the Panthers have a slight advantage when it comes to the things a team can learn only from playing another team.
“They've had a chance to work the clock and all the other things we haven't done. I'm sure the clock play will come in to play, and it will be sloppy for the first quarter until we get going. It will be all right after that, I'm sure.
“We've practiced stuff, we don't have a clock out here doing it,” Minnick said. “We don't have the 40-second clock to get plays off. We were hurrying up stuff during practice even though we don't have a clock. We'll be all right. It is what it is right now. It's early in the season.”
The Panthers won only two games last year, but Minnick said he still expects a tough game — albeit a win.
“What we're expecting is to get the win and get out of there, basically. I think it's starting off with a JC team, and without any preparation or even a scrimmage. That gives them a little bit of an advantage over that.”