Bumps Ahead: Queen Creek Finds Rough Road at I-Ridge
11 months ago Andrew Luberda 0
Every journey towards a championship goal has a bump or two in the road and for top-ranked Queen Creek, Friday night’s game against No. 5 Ironwood Ridge was one of them.
Juniors Devin Larsen and Dylan Borja maneuvered the Bulldogs through a pesky Nighthawks’ defense on the game’s final drive to lead still-undefeated Queen Creek (6-0) to a 35 – 28 victory in the Old Pueblo.
With less than 45 seconds left and the game tied, Queen Creek faced a third-and-10 at the Nighthawks’ 45-yard line, when Larsen scrambled left and found senior receiver Crew Turner for a 25-yard gain. On the next play, Larsen hit Borja, who was a workhorse down the stretch, on a perfectly-timed screen pass for a game-winning 20-yard touchdown. Senior kicker Jacori Wooten’s fifth PAT with 26.5 seconds remaining accounted for the final margin of victory.
“We do two-minute drills in practice all the time, so we’re comfortable in that situation,” said Larsen, who completed 21-of-31 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. “The offensive line really came through at the very end and Dylan had a great game.”
“The thing I like about these guys is they’re not panicking,” Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman said afterwards. “We were confident we were going to score.”
Borja rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He had the one huge touchdown reception as well. Wide receiver Garrett Duke, a senior, led the Bulldogs with 87 receiving yards on six receptions, including one for a touchdown.
Certainly, Queen Creek didn’t play its best game, but Ironwood Ridge was the cause for many of the Bulldogs’ ills.
“That’s a good football team,” Schureman said about the Nighthawks. “They do a lot of good things and make it tough on us when we travel down to Tucson. To get a win against a 4 – 0 team, we’re happy.”
As they have in several games this season, the Bulldogs scored on their first possession, a five-play drive – three passes, two runs – ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Larsen to Duke.
A 12-yard touchdown run by Borja near the end of the first quarter gave the Bulldogs their first of two first-half 14-point leads. They later led 21 – 7 after Larsen hit junior Jett Koester on a 28-yard scoring play with just under seven minutes left in the second quarter.
The Nighthawks closed to within 21 – 14 at halftime and took the second-half kickoff into Queen Creek territory before Koester came up with his second interception in as many weeks.
“Coach Germaine has been helping me out a lot (on offense),” Koester answered when asked about his play-making ability in the last two games. “On defense, Coach Suchomel has been helping us with the film and because of that I’ve been able to make plays on defense too.”
Ironwood Ridge returned the favor, intercepting Larsen for a second time, and this time it capitalized.
Aided by consecutive 15-yard penalties against the Bulldogs, the Nighthawks tied the game on quarterback Heath Beemiller’s eight-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left in the third quarter.
The team’s traded touchdowns, less than a minute apart in the final quarter, before the Bulldogs’ game-winning drive.
Queen Creek remains undefeated and on the path to what it hopes is a championship season despite a pair of red-zone interceptions, their defense allowing a season-high point total, and twice blowing two-touchdown leads.
“It’s good for our team to have to overcome some adversity because we’re going to face it down the road,” Schureman said. “We’re pleased with the score but not necessarily the way that we played.”
The Bulldogs hope the road is smoother this Friday, when they host Mesquite on Homecoming.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.