Outlook: The good news for Queen Creek in 2013: Its best player and the reigning Tribune Player of the Year, running back Matt Guida (2,829 rush yards, 31 TD), returns as the team aims for a repeat Division III football state championship. The bad news: Every other significant skill player and almost all of the defense is gone from last year’s magical run.
It’s going to be an interesting year for the Bulldogs. Coach Joe Germaine has built the program into a powerhouse, culminating with last year’s title, but with so much to replace, can the underclassmen from a year ago step up and give Guida enough support in 2013?
“The bar has been set high and it doesn’t matter if we have a lot of guys returning or not,” Germaine said. “I think it’s the same for every program: There are high standards for everything we do. We understand (Guida) is a great talent but he can’t do it alone.”
Guida was expected to have his rushing partner returning, but Marcus Still (867 yards rushing, 203 yards receiving, 11 TD) is bypassing his senior season of football to concentrate on baseball. The competition to replace quarterback Carson Jones is ongoing, as Layne Roshay, last year’s backup, and Bryce Dobbs aim to be the starter. Sure-handed wide receiver Gabe Vazquez is the biggest loss among the aerial targets, and Guida’s 44 receiving yards is the most among returners. The offensive line will be rebuilt as well, with Carson Sawyer the only returner.
There is a similar amount of reloading to do on defense, as Dejon Thompson (76 tackles, 6 sacks) and Garrett Laidley (61 tackles, 2 sacks) are the only two significant contributors back. Queen Creek’s lower levels have impressed for the past several seasons, so the dropoff is not expected to be significant. Additionally, the team blew out so many teams last year that the new starters actually have a significant amount of varsity experience, albeit in mop-up time.
Germaine is trying to avoid comparisons between this year’s squad and last. He’s told the players from last year’s title-team to forget about the accomplishment and to start over. With Guida leading the way, the Bulldogs should still be among the better teams in Division III. However, the standard has now been increased substantially following last year’s title. Deep playoff runs have come to be expected under Germaine, and doing so with new personnel this year will be the ultimate test.
The schedule is interesting, with an early game against top-10 ranked Division I foe Highland followed by a matchup against Division IV power Show Low. Saguaro and Williams Field are also on the slate, so Queen Creek will know where it stands by the end of the regular season.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure,” Germaine said. “It’ll be interesting to see how our kids handle it. I hope they rise to the occasion.”
Division III, Section III
Coach: Joe Germaine
Last year’s record: 14-0, won Division III state championship
Returning Starters: 2 on offense/ 1 on defense
Top returners: RB Matt Guida (204 carries, 2,829 yards, 31 TD); DL Dejon Thompson (76 tackles, 6 sacks); DL Garrett Laidley (61 tackles, 2 sacks); OL Carson Sawyer.
Aug. 23 at Poston Butte; Aug. 30 at Highland; Sept. 13 vs. Show Low; Sept. 20 at McClintock; Sept. 27 vs. Higley; Oct. 4 at Saguaro; Oct. 11 vs. South Mountain; Oct. 18 at Williams Field; Oct 25 vs. Apache Junction; Nov. 1 vs. Bradshaw Mountain
Aug. 30 at Highland: The Bulldogs will be tested right out of the gate. The Hawks had an impressive defense last season and return eight starters from that unit. Bulldogs running back Matt Guida will certainly earn his yards in this one.
Oct. 4 at Saguaro: The Sabercats have dominated the division the past several years but were beaten in the quarterfinals last year by Desert Edge. Both teams could be state title contenders, and the outcome of this one should help give an idea of the pecking order.
Oct. 18 at Williams Field: Queen Creek dominated this matchup last year, and the win helped prove that it was a legitimate title threat. Both teams are ranked in the top-5 to start the season and this year’s contest should be much closer.