Outlook: After being one of the elite programs in 4A Division II and Division III in its brief history, Williams Field plans to keep it that way. But not before a few questions are answered.
After their comeback fell short against Goodyear Desert Edge in the Div. III semifinals last fall, the Black Hawks graduated a bevy of impact players: RB Sean Schweichler and Ray Velasquez, WR Jordan Johnson, DL Drew Burgesser, along with Preston Johnson and Skyler Wengert.
Significant pieces remain, starting with nearly all of Williams Field's offensive line, three-year starter Jed Fagg at QB and Cole Forsgren at WR. But they're looking for a complimentary receiver on the other side (Kenny Owens is an option, a speedster who placed in four events in last spring's state track meet) and some big-play threats from new running backs.
They'll have to ready quickly, as Forsgren (862 yards, 12 TD in 2012) broke his hand and is likely out the first 2-3 weeks of the season.
The big boys up front will be solid, so much so that Luke Petruzzi (6-foot-2, 250 pounds with Ivy League schools interested) is moving from tackle the tight end because of the group's depth.
"At times we’re going to have growing pains and other times we’ll be pretty good," Black Hawks coach Steve Campbell said. "We can’t find our niche for a few games. But we’ve shown a never-out-of-it mentality. In close games we’re going to step up, come back and compete. That’s what my perception of this team is right now."
On the opposite side, the secondary returns most of the unit's experience with Cliff Weybrecht, Justin Honore and Darius Williams, who transferred from Campo Verde.
Elijah Jeffcoat will lead the group up front, but the Black Hawks suffered a big loss when LB Nick Bialkowski suffered a severe knee injury during the team's scrimmage and will miss his senior season. Bialkowski was the leading tackler in 2012.
Still, the Black Hawks won't waver on their belief another deep postseason run can be achieved based on their schedule, offensive line, health, and, of course, the inexplicable.
"Once you set a standard and bar and you have to have the guys," Campbell said. "I know a lot of chemistry and other things have to go the right way. Some of it is luck and injuries, but it’s managing the team to support and care about each other, to do more for each other. That’s how we’re trying to get there, and playing for each other because it means more to others as well. People will give up on yourself before they give up on each other."
Division III, Section III
Coach: Steve Campbell
Last year's record: 11-2, lost to Goodyear Desert Edge in the Div. III semifinals
Returning starters: 5 on offense/ 5 on defense
Top returners: QB Jed Fagg (108 of 212 passing, 1,876 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT); WR Cole Forsgren (40 rec., 862 yards, 12 TD); OL Luke Petruzzi; DB Cliff Weybrecht (82 tackles, 1 INT, 2 fumble rec.); DB Justin Honore (14 tackles, 1 fumble rec., 1 FF)
Aug. 30 at Show Low; Sept. 6 at Mesquite; Sept. 13 vs. Maricopa; Sept. 20 at South Mountain; Sept. 27 vs. Apache Junction; Oct. 4 at McClintock; Oct. 11 vs. Saguaro; Oct. 18 vs. Queen Creek; Oct. 25 vs. Shadow Ridge; Nov. 1 at Higley
Sept. 6 at Mesquite: An interesting matchup with Mesquite moving down to Div. II. The Black Hawks have numbers, but the Wildcats will be an improved team from a year ago, which could work for/against WF.
Oct. 18 vs. Queen Creek: Has the gap closed? QC has won the past couple matchups, but while WF has a somewhat new cast, QC has a whole new cast. This could be WF door to help return the past two years' favors.
Nov. 1 at Higley: The ol' neighborhood rivalry, but Higley should also be better. This one could also have power rankings/playoff position implications for both teams.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.