The last time Scottsdale Saguaro played Queen Creek, the players and coaches wore green and held a memorial on the field just before kickoff for equipment man Mike “Tug” Garcia, who died at the start of the week leading to the Oct. 4 football game.
Saguaro won 35-28.
Players and coaches, who have dedicated the season to Garcia, will have some green on (Garcia’s favorite color) for Friday’s 1 p.m. Division III championship game against Queen Creek for the first time since then. It just happens to be Queen Creek again. Garcia’s big extended family also will be there.
They won’t come into Arizona Stadium in Tucson with the emotions of just losing a loved one, but the hype of playing for the state title for the Garcia family.
“I think we’ll be more loose,” junior receiver/cornerback Christian Kirk said. “We got the news early in the week. It was very emotional. It was rough for all of us. We were playing with heavy hearts.”
Like Tucson Salpointe Catholic senior Cameron Denson, Scottsdale Chaparral’s Tyler Whiley is the ultimate utility man. Coach Dave Huffine will line up the receiver at running back, at quarterback to run the wildcat, split wide, in the slot. On defense, Whiley is a tough cover guy at cornerback.
“I’ll do whatever will help us to win,” he said.
Last year’s quarterfinal loss motivated Chaparral, which had won three consecutive state championships before that.
“We’re not used to losing early here,” Whiley said. “We’ve worked hard in the off-season.”
Chandler Hamilton linebacker Santana Sterling and cornerback Levi Sterling are twins. But you would never know that if they were standing next to each other.
Santana has red hair and is 6 feet 2, 217 pounds. Levi is 5-8, 157. But they are connected on defense. Both were leaders of the defense on last year’s Division I championship team.
They’ve led this defense that has allowed 197 points against a tough schedule that included games against Division I quarterfinalists Phoenix Brophy Prep, Phoenix Pinnacle, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, Chandler (twice) and Chandler Basha. This likely is their last game playing together in Saturday’s Division I final at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I”m more of the vocal leader out there,” Santana said. “We communicate a lot together. It’s been great playing with my brother, one of the coolest experiences in my life. We’ve been playing together since we were 6 years old.”
Hand Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan a microphone, you never know what’s going to come out. Vaughan, who likes to play with the audience, had one at Wednesday’s championships media day at Wolfley’s Neighborhood Grill at Desert Ridge Mall in north Phoenix with Hamilton coach Steve Belles and his captains part of the crowd.
On his Saturday opponent, Vaughan said, “They’re really good. They’ve won 15 championships in 14 years.”
Top-ranked Mountain Pointe will be looking for its first on Saturday.