Itty-bitty moments gone awry left Williams Field feeling icky.
A valiant first-half comeback and another attempt in the fourth quarter weren't enough against Goodyear Desert Edge's size and speed in Williams Field's 37-27 loss on Saturday night in the Division III semifinals.
No. 1 Desert Edge will take its fast-and-loose style of offense to Sun Devil Stadium for a championship game matchup with No. 2 Queen Creek on Saturday at 3 p.m.
The Black Hawks looked to have crashed onto the canvas early with a 17-0 second-quarter deficit, but came back to pull within 17-14 at halftime.
When it happened again in the third quarter, the Black Hawks tried again to rally, but turnovers, tackling, penalties and their opponents' run-and-gun offense sent the Black Hawks (11-2) down for the count.
A 17-0 deficit early was spawned largely from an interception and fumble, but Jeddediah Fagg connected twice with Cole Forsgren - who had a huge night with eight catches for 189 yards - in the final four minutes of the second quarter and the Black Hawks stampeded off the field to the locker room for halftime.
"We didn't win but we deserved the chances we had to win because they fought all the way," Campbell said.
But then the third quarter began.
Desert Edge (13-0) has a stable of skill position kids with size and speed and quarterback Sawyer Lung set up a middle screen to Kyle Woolard on the third play of the third quarter. Woolard broke four tackles and scored to make it 24-14.
The Black Hawks' ensuing possession resulted in a blocked punt by Ismael Murphy-Richardson, which Desert Edge recovered at the Black Hawks' 3-yard line. Williams Field's defense held, however, and the Scorpions' short field goal made it 27-14.
"That could have been lights out," Desert Edge coach Rich Wellbrock said.
It wasn't. A couple penalties and more Fagg-to-Forsgren set up Sean Schweichler's touchdown plunge and it was 27-20 again. That is, until Desert Edge turned a third-and-12 into a 71-yard screen pass to Woolard and Lung threw his second of his three touchdown passes (he also ran in another) and the lead was back to 34-20.
Desert Edge added a field goal. When Forsgren caught his third touchdown pass of the night to pull within 10 points in the final four minutes, the onside kick attempt went through Williams Field's hands and out of bounds and the offense stalled the rest of the night.
“They just kept coming,” Wellbrock said. “They’re a well-coached team and their kids play their tails off and we were lucky to come out on top.”
Lung found five different receivers on the night and threw for 313 yards and had four total touchdowns. Woolard accounted for 177 yards of offense and Raheem Dowdell had two of Desert Edge's interceptions on defense.
Thanks to a slew of second-half personal fouls Desert Edge overcame itself in the form of 11 penalties for 120 yards, while Williams Field lamented its seven penalties for 62 yards.
Fagg finished with 213 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Skyler Wengert and Drew Burgesser both made an impact on defense, and Schweichler capped a tremendous career with 105 yards and the one score to lead a group of seniors who experienced a slew of success (including postseason), but only came tantalizingly close to a championship.
"The kids have done everything we've asked of them all year long," Campbell said. "How can I be disappointed with our guys? They believed in one other and had faith even with 55 seconds left and it could have been done."
Desert Edge 37, Williams Field 27
WF 0 14 6 7 -- 27
DE 10 7 17 3 -- 37
First downs: WF 18, DE 16
Rushing: WF 30-137, DE 23-112
Passing: WF 219, DE 313
Comp-Att-INT: 14-31-3, DE 19-28-0
Fumbles-Lost: WF 3-2, DE 2-1
Penalties: WF 7-62, DE 11-122
DE - Heard 37 pass from Lung (Brown kick)
DE - Brown 23 FG
DE - Lung 1 run (Brown kick)
WF - Forsgren 53 pass from Fagg (Gregson kick)
WF - Forsgren 48 pass from Fagg (Gregson kick)
DE - Woolard 39 pass from Lung (Brown kick)
DE - Brown 33 FG
WF - Schweichler 1 run (kick failed)
DE - Marks 3 pass from Lung (Brown kick)
DE - Brown 20 FG
WF - Forsgren 14 pass from Fagg (Gregson kick)
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.