Queen Creek football coach Travis Schureman shouldered the blame for his team's 42-17 loss to Williams Field last month. He watched his team get battered and bruised up front all night and it didn't sit well.
No. 4 Queen Creek got the message the last few weeks and turned around that loss with a solid ground attack from Weston Barlow and Matt Guida from start to finish Monday night in edging top-seed Williams Field, 31-28, in a thrilling Division III semifinal at Campo Verde High School.
Queen Creek (11-2) gets the chance to avenge its other loss this season and repeat as state champs when it takes on No. 2 Saguaro (12-1) for the D-III title on Friday at 1 p.m. at the University of Arizona. Saguaro knocked off No. 3 Desert Edge, 77-48.. Williams Field saw its season end with an 11-2 mark.
"I took it personally," Schureman said. "I'm the line coach. "After that loss we got back to basics and worried about us, not who we were going to play."
On a night neither team was able to stop the other with much success other than via turnover, Queen Creek resembled the 2012 state champiionship club. The Bulldogs rushed for 352 yards -- 345 of it from the tag team of junior Barlow and senior Guida. Queen Creek jumped out to a 10-0 lead late in the first period. From then on the teams alternated scoring touchdowns, leaving Williams Field always short of the lead but never in it. It made for a scintilating contest.
The final five minutes were tense, despite no scoring in that span. A 33-yard TD pass from Cole Patterson to wide out Cole Corsgren pulled Williams Field within 31-28 with 5:10 to play. It was time for a stop or turnover otherwise, it was curtains for Williams Field.
Williams Field got the break it needed three plays later. Guida took a pitch on third-and-four at the Queen Creek 16 and lost the handle. Williams Field pounced on it at the Queen Creek 20 with just under four minutes left. A 15-yard penalty pushed Williams Field back to the 35, but they were that close to a tie or better.
Three running plays with Anderson netted five yards. Fourth-and five at the 30 was ultimately an Anderson run to the left. Anderson was felled about a half yard shy of the first down. Queen Creek managed two more first downs and ran out the clock.
"We played the odds on that fourth down," Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said. "It was a 47-yard field goal for our kicker and he has the leg for it. I thought the odds were getting three or four yards was in our favor than hitting a field goal from 47. That's thedecision I'll go over 1,000 times the (tonight)."
Guida was relieved his fumble didn't end up costly. He came back and helped out on stops on two of the four plays Williams Field ran.
"We were due for a turnover, but it came back for our defense to make plays," Guida said.
Barlow, who has carried much of the rushing load this season with Guida hampered by a hamstring injury, totaled 194 yards on 27 rushes He didn't cross paydirt, but had several long runs that helped set up scores. Guida, finally healthy for the first time since late August, added 19 rushes for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
It was Guida's first extensive duty on offense since the season opener. Schureman effectively alternate stints for Barlow and Guida. Both were fresh seemingly every time they carried.
Guida also was a thorn on defense. He recovered a fumble late in the first period that resulted in Queen Creek's first TD. Guida added an interception at Queen Creek's 21 with 13 seconds left in the first half to keep Williams Fielddown 17-14 at halftime.
"It was great to have that kid back in there," Schureman said, mainly on offense but with his big plays on defense.
Queen Creek got a 27 yard field goal by Markus Paulsen, a 67-yard TD reception by Xavier McGuire and a 34-yard TD run by Guida to build a 17-7 lead after one period.
Touchdown runs by Jacob Anderson (42 yards) in the first quarter and Kyle Gill (23 yards) in the second kept Williams Field on Queen Creek's heels. Anderson had his usual prolific game, piling up 172 yards on 21 carries.
Two TD runs by Guida (14 yards in the third period) and 1-yard in the fourth, kept Queen Creek in front 24-14 and 31-21. Another TD run by Gill and the 33-yard TD reception by Forsgren with 5:10 left accounted for the 31-28 final.