WINSLOW — Every time Corey Aldecoa would break a few tackles and Traip would march downfield, everyone watching the game likely had some variation of the same thought: This is about to be a tie game, so it’s time for Winslow’s defense to buckle down.
And every time, Winslow’s defense would buckle down and keep Traip out of the end zone.
Few would have thought so at the time, but a 16-yard touchdown run by Joe Hopkins less than six minutes into the game held up the rest of the way, and Winslow advanced to the Campbell Conference Class C championship game with a 7-0 victory over Traip on Saturday afternoon at Poulin Field.
Winslow (9-1) will host Dirigo in the conference final. Traip, which defeated Winslow 36-8 on the same field last year, ends up at 8-2.
“We were supposed to get out-coached, we were supposed to get outplayed, and we didn’t,” Traip coach Ron Ross said. “We had a couple mistakes, a couple costly mistakes. It’s tough. It really is.”
Traip had 182 yards of total offense and most of that was by Aldecoa, who picked up 160 yards on 26 carries. For Winslow, Hopkins rushed 13 times for 140 yards and Zach Guptill gained 113 yards on 22 tries.
“That’s one of our best defensive efforts of the year,” Winslow coach Mike Siviski said. “They annihilated us last year. It was just a hog battle. Aldecoa, he’s fantastic.”
Winslow took it to the Rangers in the early going. Staying almost exclusively with running plays between the tackles, the Black Raiders rushed for 121 yards in the first quarter. Their touchdown drive covered 44 yards on three plays, with Hopkins rushing for 4, then 24, then 16 yards for the touchdown.
For most of the rest of the game, Winslow continued to run inside, but without as much success. The Raiders went the entire second quarter and more than half of third without a first down.
“We knew we had to survive the first quarter, because they were going to come out like barnburners,” Ross said. “If we stayed close, maybe we can catch a break and catch ‘em in the second half. We did make some adjustments. We pinched a little more. We sent (line)backers through C-gaps. We slowed ‘em down a little bit.”
Traip kept pushing, but couldn’t get into the end zone. In the second quarter, the Rangers failed on a fourth-down pass at the Winslow 36-yard line. With four minutes left in the half, Aldecoa bounced off two defenders and appeared to be free, but Winslow’s Matthew Fortier tripped him up at midfield. Traip fumbled the ball away three plays later.
In the third quarter, the Rangers rode Aldecoa from their own 32 to a first down at the Winslow 25 after Dylan Hapworth saved a touchdown by tackling Aldecoa. Traip tried a play-action pass and TJ Mitchell sacked Chris Czachor for a loss of seven. That drive ended in a punt.
Traip had two more chances. After Joe Harty recovered a Winslow fumble at the Raiders 26, Traip rolled to the Winslow 14. But on first down, the Rangers were called for an illegal block, setting them back 16 yards. On fourth down from the 14, Czachor’s pass fell incomplete.
Traip’s final drive started at its own 28. Using six runs and one pass, the Rangers moved to a fourth-and-3 at the Winslow 16. Devon Draker was stuffed with 5:19 to play and Traip would not get the ball back.
At that time, Winslow revived its power running game. With Guptill doing most of the work, the Raiders picked up five straight first downs.