VX Game of Week: Thunderbird at Williams Field - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

VX Game of Week: Thunderbird at Williams Field

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Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2011 5:11 pm

Williams Field and Phoenix Thunderbird met in a memorable 4A Division II championship game last season, with the Chiefs pulling out a 25-22 overtime win.

Both teams are threats to advance far into the Division III state tournament this season, but only one will be left standing after Friday night.

The eighth-seeded Black Hawks will host No. 9 Thunderbird in one of the more intriguing first-round matchups in Division III. Many of the key players are back from that game, including the star running backs (Williams Field's Alex Howard and Thunderbird's Connor Hustead and Kani Benoit) from both sides.

"We haven't over-emphasized (the rematch) too much, but we've definitely talked about it," Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said.

In a way, Campbell is happy to be playing such a noteworthy opponent.

Two seasons ago, Williams Field was undefeated heading into the regular season finale before losing to Arcadia.

Campbell felt the loss affected the team mentally heading into the postseason, and the Black Hawks were upset in the first round by Tucson Amphitheater.

Last Friday, Williams Field was beaten by Queen Creek, but instead of questioning its worth, Campbell feels his team will immediately turn its attention to the Chiefs.

"We knew once we lost (to Queen Creek) we would be playing a good team (to open the playoffs)," Campbell said. "It grabbed the attention of the guys on the team."

The big test will be slowing down Benoit and Hustead, who have each rushed for more than 1,150 yards on the season. Hustead was the thorn in Williams Field's side in the title game, rushing for 154 yards and a touchdown and returning a kick 99 yards for a score to lead Thunderbird to the upset.

"Those backs are good," Campbell said. "They're big-play backs. And there's two of them."

The Black Hawks have a star runner of their own in Howard. He has rushed for 1,701 yards this season and leads the state with a 14.5 yards-per-carry average.

He will need to carry much of the load, because Williams Field will be without wide receiver Sean Schweichler, Campbell said. He is the team's second-leading rusher and is a dangerous punt and kick returner.

Schweichler played sparingly against Queen Creek, but aggravated a knee injury while jumping up to catch a pass in the second half.

"It's a different type of thing for a kid like Sean because of his running style," Campbell said. "He's a tough kid. He's played most of the year with a messed up thumb, but with his type of running style, you just can't tough through (a knee injury). He's an elusive speed guy, and this takes that factor away from him."

Outside of Saguaro, there seems to be some parity in Division III, so the winner has a chance to stay alive awhile. It's a tough draw for both teams, as it guarantees one will be turning in pads and helmets Saturday morning, something that would leave Williams Field short of its goals.

"The expectations for these kids isn't going to the playoffs or to win the first round game, it's to go deep into the playoffs," Campbell said.

 

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