Queen Creek built a big third-quarter lead and withstood a late rally by visiting Tucson Catalina Foothills to earn a 36-28 victory in a 4A Division I quarterfinal game on Friday night.
The No.2-seeded Bulldogs appeared to have the game well in hand after scoring two touchdowns in a 19-second span to pull ahead 36-14 with 7:30 left in the third.
The Falcons, however, put up 14 points in the fourth quarter to close within eight with 1:32 remaining.
Queen Creek preserved the win when Jeff Black recovered Catalina Foothills’ final onside-kick attempt, sending the Bulldogs (10-2) to the semifinals for the first time since 1998, when they advanced to the Class 2A state championship game.
“Our kids have worked so hard to get to this point,” Queen Creek coach Joe Germaine said. “All the other programs have, too. But they really have paid the price, and they’ve earned the opportunity to be in the semifinals.”
Adam Brzeczek rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another for the Bulldogs, while Chim Nga ran for 179 yards and two TDs.
Meanwhile, Catalina Foothills (7-5) got huge production from quarterback Alyn Fletcher, who completed 19 of 27 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver Shawn Kobylinski, who finished with nine catches for 191 yards and two scores.
After Queen Creek grabbed a 14-0 lead on a 10-yard run by Nga in the final minute of the first quarter and a 14-yard pass from Brzeczek to Todd Kirchner with 2:26 left before halftime, Catalina Foothills responded with a 74-yard touchdown strike from Fletcher to Kobylinski.
Nga extended the Bulldogs’ advantage to 22-7 with a 3-yard run with 24 seconds remaining before the intermission, but the Falcons opened the second half with a 49-yard scoring pass from Fletcher to Kobylinski.
Queen Creek answered by scoring two touchdowns in a 19-second span to go ahead 36-14. Following a 1-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone by Brzeczek with 7:49 left in the third, the Queen Creek defense recovered a fumble on Catalina Foothills’ ensuing play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Brzeczek dashed through the middle untouched for a 29-yard touchdown, putting the Bulldogs ahead 36-14.
“We actually called a different play, but I liked what I saw up front and I checked out of it and called quarterback sneak,” Brzeczek said about the 29-yard TD. “It was wide open.”
The Bulldogs’ 22-point lead appeared even safer when Colin Acedo intercepted a pass with 1:19 left in the third quarter, but Catalina Foothills rallied in the fourth.
The Falcons drove 84 yards in 11 plays and scored on an 11-yard screen pass from Fletcher to Esteban Escarcega with 6:40 remaining.
After forcing a Queen Creek punt, Catalina Foothills advanced 82 yards in 15 plays, scoring on a 22-yard pass from Fletcher to Nick Chronister and getting a two-point conversion run by Fletcher to draw within 36-28 with 1:32 remaining.
Black then stepped up for Queen Creek by making his second onside-kick recovery of the fourth quarter, allowing the Bulldogs to run out the clock.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve made the semifinals as a program,” Brzeczek said. “This is part of what we set our goal as at the beginning of the season, so it’s great to get the win.”