SAFFORD — Safford beat Odyssey Prep in a 35-0 upset game in round one of the 3A state playoffs in 2018, and then fell to Yuma Catholic in round two after a good start.

Jerick Arbizo, who sustained a significant leg injury in that game, will not be returning for the 2019 season. But is all lost? No. The Bulldogs are on a mission.

“There’s some good competition going between Landon Shurtz and Mason Duros for starting quarterback,” head coach Eric Hjalmarson said. “We want to be a playoff team again. We have a lot of work to do. We have a tough schedule. We play a lot of good 3A teams and, obviously, our next-door neighbors. Thatcher is the best 2A team around. We have our work cut out for us. It was a challenging summer, and that put us behind. Attitude-wise, we’re ready.”

With athletes graduating every year, the face of the team changes, but Hjalmarson has a variety of talent to cultivate.

“We have the ability to do both running and passing plays. We have some good running backs, like CJ Scrivner. We have Sam Tobias and Robert White. Dylan Durell is coming is back, another talented athlete who plays offense and defense. Our quarterback, Mason, has a good amount of experience. Landon Shurtz is another solid quarterback as well,” Hjalmarson said.

Tobias said, “I think everyone has a job. Everyone does their job, a championship will be in its way and we’ll be good.”

Robert White said, “I hope to help score a lot of points this year by working hard at practice, do my best and support my team, and encouraging the freshmen.”

Jordan Turner said, “I just want to try my hardest of every play and get those touchdowns.”

Zack Juares said, “Coming in this season, our motto is giving it 100 pe cent every play, even in practice. Don’t take plays off. It comes back to get you in a game, when it comes down to it.”

With a variety of talent in his team, Hjalmarson says he’s looking for the boys who want it most, and not just among their teammates, but also when they face the competition.

“It’s different from being in a big school. They have 100 kids on varsity with three players in each position. Right now, we’ve got 30 kids on varsity, so there’s not a lot of competition. They think they’re the man. Humble and hardworking is going to be key this year, and not thinking we’re better than we are. These boys might need a loss to stay humble,” he said.

“I’ve played on three state championship teams, 39-0, just like Thatcher. I didn’t need to lose. Some teams need to lose to learn how to win. Would you hate to lose more than you like to win? If so, you might have a chance. These boys have been together for a long time. It’s a tight-knit group of kids and a good group of kids. When you hate to lose more than you like to win, then you might have a chance. We’ll see what these boys want.”

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