Both Desert Edge and Queen Creek knew early on in the season that they had the talent to make it to today’s Division III championship game at Sun Devil Stadium.
Even if they were the only ones.
For Desert Edge, the belief came after beating Phoenix Thunderbird, 45-16, in the first game of the 2012 season. Desert Edge lost to Thunderbird in the 2010 Class 4A Division II semifinals and in 2011 season opener.
“We knew in our little Desert Edge bubble that we were pretty good before anybody else figured it out,” Desert Edge coach Rich Wellbrock said.
Queen Creek senior linebacker Dean Wenger said the team’s belief started once the team gathered for training camp in Joseph City. And coach Joe Germaine knew then, too.
“A lot of the kids played extensively last year as juniors,” Germaine said. “That experience was going to work for them. You go into the season hoping and doing everything you can, we’re real fortunate to have things go our way. They (the players) are the ones who made it happen.”
Desert Edge and Queen Creek, both 13-0, still had to convince others.
Desert Edge did it with a 26-0 win over Peoria Liberty on Oct.12. Then with a second-half comeback win in the playoff quarterfinals vs. Scottsdale Saguaro, the two-time defending champions.
“We’ve been the underdog,” Desert Edge senior John Snyder said. “Everyone has been saying we haven’t faced anybody, and we didn’t have the potential to make it (to the state championship.) We knew what we had we just had to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Not just one person is going to win the championship by himself.”
Desert Edge has done it with a hard-hitting defense that has gotten stops in crucial times and with an offense that has racked up 593 points. Quarterback Sawyer Lung has thrown for 3,119 yards and 36 touchdowns and Kyle Woolard has rushed for 1,545 yards and 13 touchdowns.
That offense will go up against a Queen Creek defense that has shut out six opponents and held four others under nine points.
Queen Creek also trots out a balanced offense. Carson Jones has thrown for 2,003 yards and 18 touchdowns. And Queen Creek has rushed for more than 4,000 yards and 60 touchdowns, led by Matt Guida’s 2,668 yards and 30 scores.
Queen Creek senior Mike Graff said the key to a win is to get that offense going.
“Our defense always does a great job,” Graff said. “We have great defensive linemen. We have a great offense too but we just have to get the engine running on offense.”