According to the power-point rankings, Seton Catholic is the best team in 3A.
Judging from Friday’s performance, it’s hard to argue that the power points aren’t right.
The Sentinels spotted host Queen Creek a 7-0 lead but thumped the Bulldogs from there, scoring 28 unanswered points and winning 28-7 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
With the win, Seton (8-2, 5-0) claimed an outright South Region Division 1 title and possibly the top seed in the 3A playoffs, which begin next week. Queen Creek dropped to 8-2 and 3-2.
“This is just a tremendous feeling,” said Seton coach Pete Wahlheim. “They’ve just grown together . . . I’m proud of the way they’ve stayed together.”
For the final 30-plus minutes of the contest, the Sentinels thoroughly whipped Queen Creek on both sides of the line of scrimmage. After the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown at the 6:38 of the first half, Seton rushed for 215 yards. Led by the defensive front of Johnny Nguyen, Paul Castillo, Zachary Sullivan, Dan Koestner and Robert Rzonca, the Sentinels held Queen Creek to a meager 47 total yards.
Before Hayden Moss ran for 26 yards on the second-to-last play of the game, Queen Creek ran for 4 yards in the second half.
“Their quarterback (Moss) is just such a great player, we had to find a way to contain him,” Wahlheim said. “The kids did a good job of that.”
Chad Baniecki led the way for Seton’s ground attack, gaining 145 yards — 101 in the second half — on 21 carries and scoring three times. Dan Koestner chipped in 80 yards on 12 carries and another score, all after halftime.
“I think it was just that the team started clicking,” said Seton tackle Barry Charters. “The backs started running, the line started making the blocks, and (quarterback Matt) Refner had some time. Everything just started clicking.”
Seton only stronger as the game went on. Baniecki’s final six carries averaged 14 yards, and Koestner’s final four averaged more than 10.
“I’ve got to give everyone credit for keeping their heads in the game and playing the whole thing,” Charters said. “Queen Creek is a great team.”
At times, the first half resembled an early-season clash more than a regular-season finale. The teams were penalized nine times for 60 yards in the half, and combined for just 11 first downs.
“Nothing seemed to go right for anybody,” said Charters, whose team was hit with 11 penalties for 105 yards in the game.
Queen Creek gained almost half of its 170 first-half yards on two plays that bookended the Bulldogs’ lone scoring drive of the half. Chad McRae fell backward to snare a Moss pass for 37 yards, and three plays later, Moss broke open a seemingly stuffed third-down run for a 46-yard score.
The Sentinels answered with a different sort of drive. Seton went 53 yards in 10 plays. None of the plays were longer than 9 yards until Chad Baniecki drove through one tackler and spun away from another to score from 16 yards out.
That drive was delayed approximately 40 minutes when a television cameraman was knocked unconscious after a collision out-of-bounds with Seton receiver Eric Barkyoumb and had to be air-evacuated to a nearby hospital.