The ingredients for a long-term, competitive rivalry in the Southeast Valley between Queen Creek and Williams Field are all on the table.
Geography. Competitiveness. Two teams among the more successful programs the past few years; playing games of significant reward/consequence late in the season.
All that needs to be served is a healthy exchange of close games and victories on each side.
The third all-time matchup takes place Friday night at Williams Field high school, and while there’s a lot on the line in terms of power rankings (both teams are currently in the top 5 in Division III) and psychology (a win against an elite Div. III program since both lost close games to Saguaro already this season), the rest remains in its infancy.
Kids at both schools know each other dating back to youth football days, but the series still stands at 2-0 in favor of Queen Creek, including last year’s 49-6 blowout win and a 22-20 win in 2011.
“It’s early in its stages but it’s becoming a pretty good rivalry,” Queen Creek coach Travis Schureman said. “I think we’re fairly close. I think the reason it heads that way is both programs have been very successful the past four years (both teams were 8-1 in 2011 heading into the matchup, both were 9-0 last year, and 6-1 this year). Kids know each other and it’s setting up that way.”
Through an early-season coaching transition from Joe Germaine (who’s still an assistant) to Schureman when Germaine’s job duties necessitated him to give the head coaching position, Queen Creek has maintained its M.O. of running the ball and playing stifling defense. Even without 2012 Tribune Player of the Year Matt Guida in the backfield or on defense for nearly the entire season (hamstring), a combination of Weston Barlow and others have kept the train rolling.
Schureman said both Guida – whether on offense, defense or both – and Barlow (concussion suffered two weeks ago against Saguaro) are up-in-the-air as to their availability this week.
Williams Field has been equally stung by injuries, including a couple more to starters suffered last week. The Black Hawks lost in narrow fashion to Saguaro last week, but trailed 27-3 after the first quarter before roaring back to pull within a field goal late.
“We picked up the tempo and we didn’t make much adjustment on offense but the style,” Campbell said of the comeback attempt. “All we needed was a score and show the (defense) we can help them by putting points on the board.”
Then Saguaro’s athletes took control (again) in a 40-31 win.
But Williams Field’s hope in the loss is its part of a championship evolution, even though it has a history of success in a relatively new program (2008).
Last year, the Bulldogs scored early on Williams Field and forced a couple Black Hawk turnovers, even though Williams Field drove down the field. Everything fell apart for Williams Field shortly thereafter in the 49-6 blowout loss.
“We’re not foolish enough to think (Williams Field) hasn’t talked about it this week,” Schureman said of last year’s game. “Every coach will use it as a rallying cry.”
In the 2012 playoffs against Peoria Liberty and then the semifinals against Goodyear Desert Edge, the Black Hawks again were behind the 8-ball early in the games, but eventually came back to beat Liberty but fell in a close one to Desert Edge in the semifinals.
“You’d like the win absolutely, but there’s no way to know how they’d respond,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said of last week’s comeback. “Fortunately we found out, and until they’re in that situation you don’t know. We had two close games and some big ones so it’s not like untested or untried, but you don’t know. That’s something they can fall back on if it happens again at some point.”
The contrast of styles for both teams coming off games vs. Saguaro will be interesting. The Black Hawks have a solid quarterback in Jeddediah Fagg and an elite wide receiver in Cole Forsgren, but have quietly averaged 8.6 yards per carry this season running the ball with Jacob Anderson, Josh Page and Kyle Gill. The defense has been solid most of the season despite injuries, and Schureman noted the Black Hawks’ physical defensive line and linebackers.
Without Guida most of the season, the junior Barlow came from nowhere and ran for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games before suffering the concussion two weeks ago.
Free from trying to defend Saguaro’s athletes in space on every play, it might be a return to a more “smash mouth” style this week. Queen Creek needs to run the ball to set up its successes on offense, while Williams Field noted that after a few big passing plays were missed early in the Saguaro game, the Black Hawks wished they would have been more rhythmic and plodding in stringing together first downs, rather than going for bigger chunks of yardage as often as it did.
A win or loss for either teams might not shake up the Div. III seedings much after Week 8, but it appears to be a wide-open Div. III with a reality that combination(s) of the top five teams will meet again next month
“It’s three weeks but in this world it’s an eternity away,” Schureman said.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.