Queen Creek gets Defensive in Win

1 year ago Andrew Luberda 0

The No. 2-ranked Queen Creek football team relied on its defense after its high-scoring offense was forced into an off night during Friday night’s 21-16 victory at No. 12 Campo Verde.

Twice in the closing seconds of the San Tan Region contest, the Bulldogs deflected passes to keep the Coyotes from scoring the potential game-winning touchdown. Junior Armando Orona batted away a fourth-down pass to preserve Queen Creek’s undefeated season and its spot atop the region standings.

“I was super happy with our kids, the way they battled and played tonight,” Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman said after watching his team remain undefeated, improving to 8 – 0. “Our defense won the game for us. It played great.”

At Ironwood Ridge two weeks ago, the Bulldogs’ offense scored the game-winning touchdown on its final drive in a game that, even though was close, didn’t feel in doubt.

Friday’s game was the opposite, feeling very much in doubt with the Coyotes inside the red zone and the clock winding down inside the last half-minute. It couldn’t have been scripted any better for Campo Verde – score a touchdown without leaving any time on the clock for Queen Creek.

Instead, the Bulldogs’ defense made the plays it needed to, like the offense did against the Nighthawks.

“We can thank our defense,” said senior tight end Jake Ayala, who hauled in two touchdown receptions in Friday’s win. “We haven’t had problems with our offense (until Friday), but once our defense came up with the turnovers it was huge.”

Coming through when one side of the ball or the other is struggling exemplifies teamwork.

“The offense made some mistakes and we made some mistakes,” said middle linebacker Jon Matuzak, who recovered one of the Coyotes’ two fumbles. “We just have to take advantage of everything we get.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Queen Creek trailed in a game for the first time this season when Campo Verde junior Brandon Hall returned a partially-blocked punt for a touchdown, giving the Coyotes a 7 – 0 lead with 5:20 remaining in the first half.

The Bulldogs immediately answered, driving 77 yards for the tying score just before halftime. Junior quarterback Devin Larsen converted a third-and-eight with a pinpoint throw to receiver Ryan Dobbs, setting up the Bulldogs at the Yotes’ 14-yard line. Four plays later, on fourth down, Larsen threw his first of three touchdown passes in the game, finding Ayala for a five-yard score. Jacori Wooten’s PAT tied the game as the teams headed to their locker rooms.

A Coyotes’ fumble on the opening drive of the second half was recovered by Queen Creek junior defensive lineman Christian Fuhrman, providing the Bulldogs’ offense a chance to capitalize. A 37-yard run yard by running back Dylan Borja was followed two plays later with Larsen’s second touchdown pass to Ayala, this one a 12-yard throw. Wooten’s PAT made it 14 – 7 with 9:37 left in the third quarter.

Queen Creek junior running back Dylan Borja (8) rushed for more than 200 yards for the second-consecutive game on Friday night.

Borja carried the ball 35 times for 227 yards while Larsen finished 16-of-28 for 205 yards.

“Teams have to respect our running game,” Ayala said. “Both (touchdowns) were on play-action, I just found a soft spot in the zone and Devin put it on me.”

Campo Verde would not relinquish, capping off an 86-yard drive on its ensuing possession with a 55-yard touchdown pass from EJ Galvez to Kyle LeClaire.

Following a pair of illegal procedure penalties, the Coyotes’ point-after kick was blocked by Fuhrman.

“Their left tackle just shot inside and I told (linebacker) Isaiah (Tapia) to go outside and I was able to cut under and make the (block),” Fuhrman explained.

Larsen’s third touchdown of the game, a 38-yard pass to senior Garrett Duke, and Wooten’s PAT increased Queen Creek’s lead to 21 – 13.

Campo Verde kicker Jackson Passey’s 32-yard field near the end of the third quarter was the result of the Bulldogs’ defense keeping the Coyotes out of the endzone after a first-and-goal at the five.

Queen Creek’s defense stymied Campo Verde again at the end, allowing the Bulldogs to escape with their most difficult win so far this season.

“That’s a good football team,” Schureman said. “They had a great game plan. Credit to Coach Ragsdale and his staff.”

A bye this week comes at the right time, just before the final two regular season games – at Vista Grande on Oct. 20 and the finale on Oct. 27 versus rival and defending state champion Williams Field. The San Tan Region Championship will likely be at stake on Senior Night.

“It’s been a grind,” Schureman said about the schedule. “We’re beat up and we need the bye week coming up, so we’re looking forward to getting some rest.”

The rest is certainly well-deserved.