As the rain descended to start the second half, so too did the Queen Creek defense descend upon Phoenix Thunderbird, shutting down the No.10 seed and setting up a fourth quarter comeback and a 28-17 Division III victory Friday night at Queen Creek High School.
No.2 Queen Creek moves on to face the surprising No.14 Nogales next Saturday at Gilbert Campo Verde.
“We shut them (Thunderbird) out in the second half,” Queen Creek Coach Joe Germaine said. “That’s tough to do against that guy (Kani Benoit) and that team. That was the key.”
Queen Creek (12-0) was down by three at the half and seemingly unable to stop Benoit, who racked up 128 first-half yards and a touchdown. However, the defense stiffened in the second half, allowing Thunderbird just 63 yards of total offense for the rest of the game.
Running back Matt Guida did the rest. Guida, who had 246 yards on 31 carries, dashed into the end zone for an 18 yard touchdown to give Queen Creek their first lead of the game to open the fourth quarter. Guida also had a 43 yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Germaine said. “It just seems like at this point in the season you play a lot of tough teams, and it just gets tougher and tougher.
Carson Jones, who scored on a 1-yard keeper to put the game out of reach late, got Queen Creek on the board in their first possession when he hit Colton Moore for an 18 yard score.
Thunderbird marched right down the field on their opening drive and Darren Dorsey finished it off with a 2 yard run.
Benoit carried the load for Thunderbird rushing for 176 yards on 30 carries, but it wasn’t enough.
The difference in the first half was a 32-yard field goal from senior Eric Wagner that gave Thunderbird a three-point halftime lead.