Queen Creek Bulldogs
Division III, Section I
Coach: Joe Germaine
Last year’s record: 10-2, lost in the Division III quarterfinals to Saguaro
Returning offensive starters: 9, including wide receiver Gabe Vazquez, who led the team with 36 catches for 564 yards and five touchdowns a year ago.
Returning defensive starters: 5, including defensive lineman Drake Danielson, who had 111 tackles and two sacks a season ago.
Aug. 24 at Combs; Aug. 31 vs. Casa Grande; Sept. 7 at Perry; Sept. 14 at Cactus Shadows; Sept. 21 at Apache Junction; Sept. 28 vs. Catalina Foothills; Oct. 4 vs. Higley; Oct. 12 at Poston Butte; Oct. 19 vs. Campo Verde; Oct. 26 vs. Williams Field.
Sept. 7 at Perry: The first big test of the year for the Bulldogs comes in the third week against Perry. Queen Creek rallied from a 14-point deficit to win last year’s game in overtime, and this year’s contest figures to be well-contested once again.
Oct. 12 at Poston Butte: The Broncos would love to make a statement with a win over Queen Creek in this contest. Last year’s game was close and low scoring, and this one could have playoff implications as the season winds down.
Oct. 26 vs. Williams Field: This game lived up to the hype last year, as the Bulldogs squeaked out a 22-20 victory. These are the two best Division III teams in the area and this matchup is lining up as another top-notch showdown.
There is a lot to like about Queen Creek’s chances in 2012. The Bulldogs went 10-2 a year ago before losing to Saguaro in the state quarterfinals.
The team has nine offensive starters returning, including quarterback Carson Jones, two of its top three rushers (Matt Guida and Marcus Still) and the team’s leading receiver (Gabe Vazquez). The Bulldogs have also added Chandler transfer Ivan Jones, who could see time at quarterback and will likely start on defense at free safety.
With a group that dedicated itself to improving this summer, Queen Creek should be on the short list of contenders in Division III this season. However, the Bulldogs’ coaching staff has an easy way of bringing the players back to reality if their daydreams get too big.
“We’ve set team goals, but as far as having a lot of starters coming back, we tell them, ‘You’re only as good as your last play,’” assistant coach Mark Swartz said. “The jobs are always open. As soon as someone gets comfortable, they lose their motivation. We don’t want them to be comfortable. We don’t say, ‘Hey, you’re back, so think about running for 1,000 yards.’ It’s about keeping your job.”
Queen Creek made the semifinals in 2010 and the quarterfinals last year, losing to Saguaro both times. The Sabercats went on to win the state championship both years and are the preseason No. 1 again.
The Bulldogs should be one of the main contenders to that throne, especially if they can iron out some defensive questions. Queen Creek returns three defensive backs and Ivan Jones will start at free safety, so that should be a strength.
All three linebackers graduated, as the Bulldogs must find replacements there. Under coach Joe Germaine, though, the team has always been known for its stout defense,
“We’ve got to have people that step up pretty quick,” Swartz said. “On the mental part we’re OK, but instinctively (players with more experience) know when to take a gap and when to scrape down the line. Hopefully that’ll come as we get some more reps in.”
The Bulldogs knocked off Perry, Poston Butte and Williams Field, among others, last year, showing their worth as one of the best teams in the East Valley. With plenty of key personnel back, their reach this year may extend throughout the state.