For the first time since 1997 the Winterboro Bulldogs are Class 1A Region 3 champions.
After being kept out of the playoffs last season with a loss to Notasulga, the Bulldogs returned the favor Friday, dominating Notasulga 43-0 in front a spirited homecoming crowd to clinch the area crown.
“It is really overwhelming right now, “Winterboro head coach Adam Fossett said. “We talked to the team all week about coming out fast, playing hard and doing the things that we need to do. We haven’t started fast in the last three weeks, so I thought even beyond homecoming distraction and everything that homecoming brings we came out tonight and played solid football to start to finish. We played an excellent first half of football with the starters. The second half we played some subs here and there. They got in the red zone on us and we put the first defense back in because the shut out was something important to us.”
The Bulldogs recovered Notasulga’s onside kick at the 47-yard line to open the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Josh Taylor went around left end for 27 yards to the Blue Devils 20 yard line. A late personal foul penalty gave Winterboro the ball at the 10 yard line.
Curtavious Gray rumbled for 5 yards on the ensuing play. Taylor scored on the next play on a sweep to the right before cutting up to middle of the field for the touchdown. Gray bulldozed his way into the end zone to make it 8-0 with 11:06 remaining in the first.
After forcing the Blue Devils to a three and out, Taylor made an electrifying 55-yard return down the left sideline to the Notasulga 11-yard line. Gray capped off the drive as he punched it into the end zone from 1-yard out. He also ran in the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Notasulga gave Winterboro a short field to work with again with a 17-yard punt. The Bulldogs took over at Blue Devils 29-yard line. Taylor Garrett got the drive started with a 13-yard keeper to the Blue Devils 16-yard line. Garrett then connected with Taylor for a 16 yard touchdown to make it 22-0 with 4:53 remaining in the first quarter.
“I just want to thank God for giving us the opportunity,” Taylor said. “I give all the praise and glory to him. This is what we work for. This is one of the many goals that we have set for ourselves. We come out every night trying to perform. We have bought into the concept of family and I think it is finally paying off for us.”
Taylor and Gray led the Bulldogs 96 yards on another touchdown to make it 29-0. Back to back penalties on Notasulga gave Winterboro a first down at the 14-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage Taylor sprinted 28 yards to the 42-yard line.
A few plays later Taylor followed Gray and a host of Winterboro blockers for a 30-yard touchdown.
Josh Struzik’s point after attempt was good to make it 29-0.
“The unsung heroes are the offensive line,” Fossett said. “That has kind of been the weak point that we have had since I have been here. We had to get better offensive line play and we have gotten better over the years. This group was really untested coming into the season and now they get after it. They have breakdowns and miss blocks here and there. But overall, we have solid blocking upfront and they do a great job play after play.”
Winterboro got the ball at the Notasulga 8-yard line after a short punt. Gray rumbled in for his second touchdown of the night to make it 36-0.
“It feels so good to do it,” Gray said. “We haven’t won the region in 14 years and to be on the team to win it feels great. All the hard work we put in over the summer and the camp that we went through, it feels good.”
Taylor capped off a his 217-yard first half performance with a 48-yard punt return for his fourth touchdown of the night.
Winterboro’s defense only allowed two first downs against Notasulga.
The Bulldogs will travel to Verbena next week in their final region contest of the season and they will end their season on the road against Vincent.
“Tonight we had a huge crowd here for homecoming,” Fossett said. “The crowd has really stepped up and they travel well for us. Our last two games are on the road and on Thursdays so hopefully they will travel well to Verbena and Vincent and we can finish this thing out. 7-0 in the region and 10-0 in the season is a very realistic goal and that is what we are shooting for right now.”
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