BENSON — A humbling loss to a rival and a narrow miss of the playoff cutoff line put a rank ending to the Willcox Cowboys varsity football season last weekend.
Willcox was routed at Benson, 56-12, Friday night and found out Saturday morning that the defeat was enough to knock it down from a No. 16 power ranking and a playoff berth to a final No. 18 ranking to put the Cowboys on the outside looking in.
Head coach Alonzo Highsmith, who had helped deliver the Cowboys into the playoffs in his first two seasons, felt the miss here in his third campaign was a little more painful than the season-ending loss to their rivals.
“I would definitely say not making the playoffs was more disappointing. It gets your team known all over the state,” he said. “It gives you a chance to be known as one of the best.”
They definitely didn’t want to be known for their effort at Benson, where the host Bobcats scored a 73-yard touchdown on their first play from scrimmage and a 39-yard touchdown on their second play from scrimmage, both by senior running back Dondre Villalobos.
“It was disappointing to not get a win,” Highsmith said. “I didn’t foresee it going the way it did. All credit to Benson. That was a good team, and they showed why their record (7-3) was better than ours (5-5).”
Willcox trailed, 44-0, early in the third quarter before junior tailback Ote Allsup scored on an 8-yard run at the end of the period. Allsup added an 80-yard kickoff return for a score just before the end of the game.
“We have a good nucleus for next year with all our skill guys coming back except for Caiden Hall,” Highsmith said. “He is going to be hard to replace because he did so much.”
Hall was a defensive player of the year at linebacker last season and may repeat this year while also showing versatility on offense as a quarterback and running back.
“It will be interesting to see who jumps into that spot,” Highsmith said. “We were young, without depth of experience. I think that will change a lot next year because only three are gone from this team.”
Highsmith also loses senior linemen Jonathan Garcia and Cory Encinas, who started since their sophomore season.
“I’m always inspired to get back to the drawing board. For a whole year I’ll be trying to figure out how not to be in this situation (of missing the playoffs) again,” the coach said.