Team begins ’12 preseason in same spot as 2011 final ranking
Yuma, Arizona – August 2, 2012 -- Arizona Western College is proud to announce that for the third straight year, the Matadors’ football team is ranked among the elite of the NJCAA Preseason Football Poll. The 2012 Matadors will begin their season with a #3 national ranking in the NJCAA Preseason Top 25 Poll. It’s the fourth straight year that the Matadors have earned national respect in the preseason poll, coming off a #24 national ranking in the 2009 NJCAA Preseason Poll, a #2 ranking in 2010 and a #5 ranking last summer. This comes just less than a month after the announcement that Matadors earned the #2 spot in the other nationally recognized junior college football preseason poll, the JCGridiron.com’s ‘Dirty 30’ poll. The announcement comes just a day after the Matadors took the practice field for the first time in preparation of their August 25th season opener.
The #3 spot is the same that the Matadors wound up in for the NJCAA’s Final Football Poll for 2011, and that in itself gives AWC Head Football Coach Tom Minnick plenty of components for a motivational speech to his new-look team. The Matadors have flirted with #1 national ranking several times over the last couple of years, reaching the top spot in the nation for the first time in several decades in September of 2010. After finishing 9th that year, the Matadors spent all of the 2011 regular season steadily ascending from their #5 preseason national ranking to reach the top spot in early November, staying there for the final two NJCAA Polls of the regular season, thus giving them the right to host the NJCAA National Championship Game in the triumphant return of their own bowl game, the El Toro Bowl, last December. In a game that had more points scored in it than any other NJCAA National Championship Football Game in history, the Matadors battled back from a huge deficit and had the ball in the last minute of the game, just falling short of sending the game into overtime with the tying touchdown and losing, 55-47, falling short of their national championship goal.
That loss has burned in the minds of the Matador coaching staff and this year’s returning sophomores all spring and summer to get them motivated for 2012. While the three-time defending WSFL Champions head into the 2012 season without the reigning ACCAC/WSFL Offensive Player of the Year (Damien Williams, now at the University of Oklahoma) and Defensive Player of the Year (Chris Young, now at Arizona State University), the Matador braintrust has retooled with All-WSFL/All-ACCAC 1st Team defensive end Randy Gregory as well as fellow returning starters, offensive linemen Nathan Bartley and Brent Walker, cornerback Nate Willis, defensive lineman Sam Wren, tight end Emmanuel Bibbs and placekicker/punter Tilghman Harvey. In addition to AWC, WSFL foes Snow College (9th), Eastern Arizona College (13th) and New Mexico Military Institute (15th) also made the NJCAA Preseason Top 25. The Matadors will face Eastern Arizona in Thatcher on September 29th, NMMI in Roswell, New Mexico on November 3rd, and then will close out their 2012 regular season campaign against the Snow Badgers at the friendly confines of Veterans Memorial Stadium-the Mats’ home field-in a November 10th showdown. The Mats will break the seal on the season on Saturday night, August 25th, as they’ll host the Tucson Team Jordans starting at 7PM at Veterans Memorial Stadium-AWC’s home football stadium-which is ¼ mile west of the AWC Campus on 24th Street near Araby Road in Yuma.