Yuma, Arizona – July 9, 2013 — Arizona Western College is proud to announce that the AWC Matadors’ football team is ranked 9th in JCGridiron.com’s newly released national preseason poll. It’s the fourth straight year that the Matadors have earned a top 10 spot in the ‘Dirty 30’, having been ranked 2nd in last year’s preseason poll, 9th in 2011, and began the 2010 campaign as the poll’s top-ranked team for the first time ever. The Mats are one of two Western States Football League teams to be ranked in the preseason poll. The announcement comes just under a month before the Matadors open up preseason camp on the AWC campus, and just under seven weeks before the Matadors kick off the 2013 regular season at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Yuma.
Unlike last year-when a sophomore-laden squad made it likely that the Matadors would be a shoo-in for the pressure of a top 3 spot-the 2013 Matador Football coaching staff squad is likely quite pleased that their much-younger team is garnering national respect already-but not too much. Tom Minnick’s 2012 squad certainly raised expectations of this year’s team after finally giving their head coach his first postseason win in four tries at AWC: a 42-37 victory over then-#6 Nassau Community College in the 2012 El Toro Bowl last December. Minnick knew, though, that there would be little from that team’s depth chart to move towards this season, and he and his coaches worked tirelessly in the off-season to fill the voids left by the 20+ student-athletes that signed with such four-year powerhouses as Nebraska, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Oklahoma & Oklahoma State. The new crop knows the footsteps they’re following in, since the 39 wins Minnick’s teams have posted over the last four years combined is the most in that span in the history of the college. Along the way, the Matadors have posted back-to-back seasons of 10 wins or more; reached the #1 spot in the nation in both the NJCAA Poll & the ‘Dirty 30’ Poll in two of the last three seasons; won three straight league titles and played in four consecutive bowl games-both firsts for the program; and even played in a national championship game (in the 2011 El Toro Bowl) for the first time since ’72. Minnick’s 2012 team used that El Toro Bowl win to finish the season with an 8-2 record and a #7 national ranking in the final NJCAA Poll (finishing 14th in the Final ‘Dirty 30’ Poll). Unlike the NJCAA Poll, the ‘Dirty 30’ Poll includes the strong base of talent from the California community colleges (who don’t belong to the NJCAA), and four teams from the Golden State dot the top 10 this year (led by Riverside Community College at #2). Heading the preseason list this year, though, are the hosts of the first postseason bowl Minnick took his team to in 2009 (The Mississippi Bowl in Biloxi): Mississippi Gulf Coast College. The national preseason rankings are based on the combination of a program’s finishing mark from the year before, current recruiting class and number of experienced returners.
The Matadors now wait to see how they’ll fare in the NJCAA Preseason Poll, which is expected to be released within the next month. Besides AWC, defending WSFL Champion Snow College is ranked 5th in the ‘Dirty 30’ poll, while New Mexico Military Institute, Mesa Community College and Scottsdale Community College are among 30 teams that don’t own an official ranking but are listed in the ‘Others on the Bubble’ category. The Matadors will face three of those four teams away from home in 2013, but will host NMMI in their regular season home finale (and Homecoming Night) on October 12th. The Matadors’ 2013 regular season gets underway on Saturday, August 24th, when they open up WSFL play against the Pima Aztecs at 7PM at Veterans Memorial Stadium-the Matadors’ home field in Yuma.