Willcox seniors

Willcox will look to its senior leadership as it prepares for a three-week varsity football homestand starting Friday night, with Pima as the first opponent. The seniors are, from left, Derek Terry, Caiden Hall, Kelby Flowers, Jonathan Garcia and Corey Encinas.

WILLCOX — A big three-game homestand will give the Willcox football varsity a chance to impress its fan base and get an early jump on the season starting this Friday.

A bye week after the Aug. 23 opening win at Lordsburg, N.M., didn’t help Willcox get healthier, though, according to head coach Alonzo Highsmith.

“We’re still dealing with the injury bug. Hopefully, we get them back sooner than later so we don’t dwell and just go with the next guy up. Those guys stepped up and had to get some playing time, and they’ll be ready again. We should have the same lineup as the Lordsburg game,” Highsmith said.

Which means that sophomore quarterback Jacob Abarca and freshman receivers Aiden Fuentes and Christian Pando should be sidelined. Senior Caiden Hall is expected to start at quarterback again.

“Senior leadership is always important because a lot of them want to win now, so their leadership and (the) bringing of a different attitude to the team is always needed,” Highsmith said.

Last year, Willcox finished 7-3 and No. 10 in the state with the third-easiest schedule of the top 24 in 2A. Willcox defeated Pima in the early season, 24-14. The Roughriders bounced back to win their next three. They finished only 3-6 on the season but still had a No. 14 ranking thanks to the hardest schedule in 2A football.

“Last year, they were a tough team because their players were tough. They played to the whistle, they played to the fourth quarter, and they hit. That’s always tough to have to go against a team that hits,” Highsmith said.

The Cowboys may have been fortunate to open with a victory after a come-from-behind overtime win at Lordsburg, but Highsmith didn’t chalk it up to luck.

“Luck only follows you if you work hard. I don’t see a non-hardworking team get luck on their side. We worked hard, and if Lady Luck followed us, then we got what we deserved,” Highsmith said.

Willcox will host Pima on Friday, Morenci the following Thursday and San Manuel on Friday, Sept. 20.

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