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Football practices have officially started and season openers will be creeping up in a matter of weeks.
It might come in a flash or happen over the course of the season, but by the end of the year, there are going to be a handful of football players from the Southeast Valley who are going to have breakout seasons in 2014.
Clearing her head was just as important to Vanessa Davis as clearing the 13-foot mark in Saturday’s pole vault event at the 74th annual Chandler Rotary.
All-Tribune First Team Offense
TUCSON — In the (shortened) week leading up to the Division III state finals, Queen Creek's players and coaches spoke at length about needing to avoid getting in a shootout with Saguaro if the Bulldogs wanted to repeat as champions.
It all sounds exhausting: A championship program with completely new starting lineups, followed by a coaching change, followed by injuries to its top talent.
Queen Creek running back Weston Barlow tries to evade Williams Field's Garrett Rohdein, Monday, November 25, 2013 at Campo Verde. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]
The Bulldogs knew they had a pretty good player waiting in the wings behind senior Matt Guida, the 2012 Tribune Player of the Year, but the secret didn’t last long. When Guida suffered a hamstring injury early in the season — one which sidelined him for most of the regular season — Barlow ran with the opportunity. A lot. He finished second in Arizona with 2,335 yards rushing (according to MaxPreps.com) and had 24 touchdowns (25 total TDs), a comfy 8.75 yards per carry. That, by the way, includes one game he didn’t play because of a concussion and a couple other games in which his carries were limited by the scoreboard. Let’s throw in his 38 yards per punt and a 24-yard kick return average for good measure.
The opening toss coin is shown to Queen Creek's Weston Barlow before their game with Williams Field in a semifinal game, Monday, November 25, 2013 at Campo Verde. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]
Queen Creek's Weston Barlow scores late in the third quarter against Williams Field in state semifinals action, Monday, November 25, 2013 at Campo Verde. [Jerry Burch/ Special to Tribune]
After all the grinding on the line and more than 700 yards of offense, it all came down to a fourth-and-5.
Taren Morrison, Desert Ridge: 358 yards, 5 TD...
Weston Barlow, Queen Creek: 301 yards, 5 TD...
Jacob Anderson, Williams Field: 204 yards, TD...
Paul Perry, Mesquite (pictured): 159 yards, TD rec....
Bryce Perkins, Chandler: 143 yards, 4 TD...
Tyrell Smith, Hamilton: 135 yards, 3 TD...
Wesley Payne, Mountain Pointe: 133 yards...
Luke Rubenzer, Saguaro: 133 yards, 2 TD...
Chase Lucas, Chandler: 98 yards...
Queen Creek handed visiting Peoria its first loss of the year to advance to the Division III semifinals in a convincing 42-14 score which was not entirely representative of how lopsided the game unfolded.
Queen Creek scored 28 unanswered points to beat No. 13 Cactus, 38-10, and advance to the quarterfinals of the Division III football playoffs.
There is a saying that, no matter how it is accomplished, a win is a win.
No. 4 Queen Creek vs. No. 1 Williams Field (at Campo Verde H.S.): The rivalry is rapidly blooming between these Southeast Valley schools with plenty of wins under its respective belts. After losing out to the Bulldogs in the two previous matchups in its short existence, Williams Field won big in mid-October. The Black Hawks dominated Queen Creek from start to finish, and while the Bulldogs were missing some key people with injuries, Williams Field looked the part of a championship-caliber team. The big keys this time are that Queen Creek is healthier (defensively and RB Weston Barlow) and Williams Field is navigating these playoffs without starting QB Jeddediah Fagg (broken collarbone) a team leader who was having a terrific season in relative anonymity. The passing game hasn’t been quite the same, and while Queen Creek wants to make Williams Field and Cole Patterson throw the ball around to try and beat them, the Black Hawks are still capable of mixing up their offense with Jacob Anderson and Forsgren in other ways. Williams Field’s defense has been solid all season, and while Queen Creek is rounding into form during these playoffs, do the defending-champions have enough turnovers in them to force and runs to break out with Barlow to get back there again?
Prediction: Williams Field 24, Queen Creek 20
Williams Field coach Steve Campbell looked at his team's schedule months ago and knew then the importance of the final four weeks.
Queen Creek running back Weston Barlow carries the ball against Williams Field, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 in Gilbert. [Brant Clinard/ Special to Tribune]
No. 5 Peoria at No. 4 Queen Creek (Div. III): Quietly, perhaps, Peoria is one of the few undefeated teams left in Arizona (Mountain Pointe, Salpointe Catholic, Desert Edge and Bagdad), so the Panthers’ No. 5 seed comes from having the lowest strength of schedule rating (regular season) in Div. III. The Panthers are extremely young in their starting lineup, but hammered Peoria Bradshaw Mountain, 50-23, last week. This, however, is a bit different. The Panthers haven’t seen a running game or defense on part withe Queen Creek this season. While Matt Guida isn’t seeing the field much on offense because of him hamstring, Weston Barlow (pictured) is back running the ball effectively for the Bulldogs, and Bryce Dobbs was efficient throwing. The trenches is where this game will be won, and where Queen Creek holds the advantage. It’d take a lot of turnovers for Peoria to shut down the Bulldogs.
Prediction: Queen Creek 34, Peoria 20
Francisco Avitia, Skyline (pictured): 329 yards, 6 TD
Luke Quinn, Horizon: 188 yards, 3 TD
Kam’Ron Johnson, Tempe: 187 yards, TD
Paul Perry, Mesquite: 175 yards, 4 TD
Weston Barlow, Queen Creek: 165 yards, TD
Zech Gatling, Scottsdale Christian: 163 yards, TD
Truman Tucker, Skyline: 159 yards
Turrell Pietz-Noble, Mesa: 152 yards, 2 TD
Ricky Marshall, Higley: 131 yards, TD
Rajhan Meriwether, Basha: 123 yards
Elijah Castro, Chaparral: 119 yards, 3 TD
Ethan Johnson, Westwood: 118 yards, TD
Deion Warren, Desert Mountain: 100 yards
The ingredients for a long-term, competitive rivalry in the Southeast Valley between Queen Creek and Williams Field are all on the table.
Football is — among so many things — a game of attrition, which explains why many schools struggle either suddenly or gradually. That’s happening everywhere around East Valley football programs these days, seemingly with more frequency than ever (at least it feels that way).
The Chandler-Hamilton game went as this rivalry tends to go for 47 1/2 minutes on Friday night.
When J.T. Nettleton transferred to Saguaro from out of state this spring, he was warned about playing in the shadow of fellow wide receiver Christian Kirk.