KINGMAN - It's been a long time since a football game has meant as much to the Kingman Bulldogs as today's 7 p.m. Homecoming game against Surprise Willow Canyon.
KHS (3-3, 2-2 Northwest) is still looking for its first win in its new stadium, the Bulldogs haven't won a Homecoming game since 2001, they're looking for respect, and the game has huge postseason implications.
"We'd need a home win bad," KHS coach Rob York said.
"The kids and people are doing the playoff talk - and the excitement of that is nice - but the reality is we have to win on Friday. That's all good, but if we don't win, that talk is over."
The players have been convinced of the importance of today's game, and they want what they feel they deserve with a win over Willow Canyon (3-3, 2-1).
"We get a lot of respect from our town and the kids at school," junior wide receiver Gabe Lumas said. "The kids have said we're going to lose before we even take the field. A win would set the sails on our victory boat.
"It's a must-win."
Willow Canyon likes to run the football, and it seems the Wildcats will try to ram it down the Bulldogs' throat.
"They are run, run, run," York said. "It's about 80-20 run-to-pass. They don't want to throw. That's our goal this week - stop the run and get them to throw."
The KHS defense will have to bring it to stop Willow Canyon, something the Bulldogs haven't done over the past several years. York believes it's possible because the unit has been steadily improving.
"We're much better since our first game," the coach said. "We brought in a new defense this year, and in that first game, our coverages were exposed. We've fixed that."
When KHS has the ball, the Wildcats remind the Bulldogs of Valley Vista, whom KHS beat 20-12 last week. York said that Willow Canyon is big up front and has about 45 players on the roster.
"We're going to play our game," the coach said. "We'll make adjustments as needed."
There are still several key injuries that the Bulldogs have to account for. Jesse Hollingsworth, Jose Cardenas, Jesus Ruelas and Thomas Canez will be out of action.
But senior wide receiver Danny Gonzalez will suit up. He set the school record for single-game receiving yards last week with 189.
"It was one of my goals this year," Gonzalez said. "I told G (Herrera) last year I was going to try to break it."
Herrera set the record last season at 188 yards. Gonzalez said it's all about what the opposing defense gives him.
"It all depends on the corners," he said. "If they're weaker than me, I know I can beat them."
Most likely, the key for KHS will be its mental approach to the game.
"We have to stay away from the turnover mistakes, penalties, and play with the same energy we did against Valley Vista," the coach said.
"We have a good chance at winning our first home game and our first Homecoming game in forever."