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AZTEC – Aztec’s Bailey Walkins was a dominant force on the soccer field last season, and he’s not likely to slow down after he recently committed to Yavapai College — one of the top junior colleges in the nation.

“I’ve been talking to Yavapai since my junior year, and they’ve been very persistent. Their record shows that they know what they’re doing,” Watkins said. “They had everything I was looking for in a college.”

Yavapai, located in Prescott, Ariz., has made the National Junior College Athletics Association tournament 20 of the last 28 seasons with a record of 574-50-27 during that span. And of the Roughriders’ 20 tournament appearances, they’ve reached the semifinals 18 times, going on to the final 13 times and winning seven titles.

Last season, Watkins was named the District 1-5A player of the year and earned an All-State honorable mention after scoring 30 goals and notching 11 assists, which made him tops in goals and points in the district, and third in 5A.

Along with being a dangerous goal scorer for Aztec, Watkins also has been extremely durable, playing in every varsity game since he was in the eighth grade.

Watkins said a couple of other schools recruited him, but Yavapai was the most aggressive.

“They wanted me to get on the campus and sent me weekly emails with everything I needed to do and what they were looking for,” Watkins said. “It was a pretty easy decision. I had been waiting for them to ask, ‘Do you want to go here?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. Definitely.’”

Watkins said he’s not sure where the Yavapai coaching staff will have him play when he joins the team in the fall. He might be kept at forward, where he has played the last two seasons for the Tigers, or he could be moved to center-back, where he played his eight-grade through sophomore seasons.

No matter where he plays, Aztec head coach Steve Scales said Yavapai will be getting one of the hardest workers he has coached.

“He’s probably going to be one of the hardest-working players they’ll see. I know Yavapai has had a lot of great players, but Bailey is going to work hard and learn a lot," Scales said. "He’s going to have a great time, and I’m excited for him.”

Scales said Watkins is also one of the highest-character players he has come across.

“Bailey’s character, both off and on the pitch, really strengthened our program,” he said. “If we get more kids like Bailey Watkins here, we’re going to have a really strong program for years to come.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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