There isn’t a lot of mystery going into Friday’s Division III state championship between No. 4 Queen Creek and No. 2 Scottsdale Saguaro.
Queen Creek wants to control the clock. Saguaro wants to race it.
Two very different styles will be in play when the teams face off at 1 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Consider this: Queen Creek is averaging 38 points per game on the season. Saguaro has scored more than that in every game but one (a 35-28 victory over Queen Creek on Oct.4).
The biggest question seems to be: Will Queen Creek’s defense hold up, or will Saguaro run over it like it has done to so many defenses this year?
“It’s like a video game out there,” Queen Creek coach Travis Schureman said. “I don’t know that you stop a team like that. It’s a matter of, can we slow them down enough to stay in the game?”
Saguaro (12-1) is coming off a 77-48 semifinal victory over No. 3 Goodyear Desert Edge in which quarterback Luke Rubenzer tied a state 11-man record with nine touchdown passes. Queen Creek knows it needs to keep the score low to have its best shot.
“Nobody wants to get in a shootout with Saguaro,” Queen Creek running back and defensive back Matt Guida said. “That’s not really our type of game. We like to chew up clock — time of possession is key for a team like us. We like to take those long drives and capitalize on them.”
With Guida fully healthy and Weston Barlow having established himself as a force in the backfield, Queen Creek (11-2) is well-suited to that strategy. It won the state championship last year with the same style, grinding out a 9-7 victory over Desert Edge.
Both teams have made it through trying times to get this far. Queen Creek dealt with a coaching change midseason, with Joe Germaine stepping down and handing the reins to his assistant, Schureman. Saguaro has been playing with heavy hearts since the death of equipment manager Mike “Tug” Garcia in late September.
In a game pitting the past two state champions against one another (Saguaro defeated Oro Valley Canyon del Oro 41-34 in 2011), both teams know the feeling of winning it all and want it once more.
“It’s great just to have the opportunity to play in a game like this,” Rubenzer said. “I think we’re all in for a shock once it sets in.
“It’s the state championship — that’s what it’s all about.”
No. 4 Queen Creek vs. No. 2 Scottsdale Saguaro
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson.
When: 1 p.m., Friday.
When Queen Creek has the ball: With Weston Barlow and a healthy Matt Guida in the backfield, Queen Creek will only throw when it has to. Saguaro will look to create turnovers to get the ball back to its high-powered offense.
When Saguaro has the ball: Simply put, the ball will be flying. QB Luke Rubenzer has weapons galore, including 1,000-yard receivers Christian Kirk and J.T. Nettleton. Queen Creek will focus on making Rubenzer uncomfortable, applying pressure and mixing up coverages.