Different team, same scene as Queen Creek gets to defend title - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Different team, same scene as Queen Creek gets to defend title

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Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2013 11:18 am

It all sounds exhausting:  A championship program with completely new starting lineups, followed by a coaching change, followed by injuries to its top talent.

This isn't Hamilton (though it could be), Chandler, Mountain Pointe or some other big-school program. It's not even a Chaparral, Marcos de Niza or Williams Field in roster size.

Welcome to Queen Creek's 2013 season. If you're late to joining, don't worry, the Bulldogs have one more game to play: A regular-season rematch with Saguaro for the Division III state championship on Friday at 1 p.m. at the University of Arizona.

Back in August, this might have been viewed as one of the more unlikely "repeat" possibilities, said nobody in purple.

"It's realistic for us," Guida said. "We expect nothing less for us every year because we know what we're capable of."

Exactly a year after winning a crazy championship game over Goodyear Desert Edge, nearly everyone other than running back/linebacker Matt Guida was new to the varsity show in terms of playing time.

Then the Bulldogs installed a new defense under defensive coordinator (and longtime East Valley coach) Roger Suchomel.

Then Guida, last year's Tribune Player of the Year, suffered a hamstring injury late in Week 1 and didn't return until late October. He didn't return offensively until the playoffs.

Then coach Joe Germaine relented his duties in early September because of scheduling and time constraints (he frequently helps out on game days) and Travis Schureman became the interim coach.

But even to this day, talk of a "transition" period was met with a shrug.

"It really didn't make much difference to us," linebacker Skyler Bollman said. "Not much of anything changed."

Meanwhile, Guida's hamstring stubbornly wouldn't heal, and the team had enough faith in their senior captain to have him let them know when he could return to the field in-full. It finally happened in time for the playoffs.

For those 10 weeks in between, junior Weston Barlow became a version of last year's Guida. Barlow played part of Week 1's game against Highland when Guida went out, and missed another game because of a concussion.

In 11 games, he's run for 2,049 yards (8.6 per carry) and 22 touchdowns. Though both Barlow and Guida could share more carries against Saguaro.

"We thought Weston had the potential to be really good but he took the opportunity and ran with it on his own," Schureman said. "They're just as happy for each other as they are for themselves. That's been awesome."

Barlow is a junior, and there are a lot more in his class on the roster, which might bode well again next year as the Bulldogs and nearby Williams Field and Higley continue building elite programs in the Southeast Valley.

Or, perhaps, something akin to what Saguaro has been - and used to be - at Class 4A level for a decade.

None of that is related to Friday or beating Saguaro, and, thus, to the Bulldogs, doesn't matter.

"We had some bumps in the road but I wouldn't consider it a big struggle the way other places have this year," Guida said. "We put the work in as much as everyone else and got better every week. Kinda simple."

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]