Matt Guida ran Queen Creek into the Division III semifinals as the host Bulldogs beat the visiting Thunderbird Chiefs 28-17. The junior running back ran for 236 yards on 31 carries and had two touchdowns on the ground.
“We are just really excited,” Guida said after the victory. “We are just going to take it one step at a time. We know the ultimate goal that we need to get to.”
Both teams scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the game to finish the first quarter tied at 14. Thunderbird added a 32-yard field goal from Eric Wagner in the second quarter to give the Chiefs a 17-14 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs dominated the second half, as they shut out Thunderbird’s Kani Benoit. The Chiefs’ star running back had 134 yards in the first half, but Benoit was held to 98 rushing yards in the second half and did not find the end zone.
“He’s a great player, and he’s going to get his yards,” Queen Creek’s Joe Germaine said. “It was just us flying to the football and being more sound. We just executed better and tackled a little bit better.”
Benoit finished the night with 184 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown.
Queen Creek took a 21-17 lead with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run from Matt Guida.
Thunderbird drove down the field on their next possession but was stopped on third down. Eric Wagner then nailed a 42-yard field goal before the Chiefs were called for delay of game. Wagner missed his second attempt from 47 yards out and Queen Creek took over.
The Bulldogs drove 80 yards in over five minutes and put the game out of reach when quarterback Carson Jones sneaked in for a one-yard touchdown with 2:13 left in the game.
“We needed to just drive the ball and run the clock out, so on the last drive we just executed the run game very well, held onto the football and ran the clock out,” Guida said.
Queen Creek advances to their second final four in three seasons where they will play 14th-seeded Nogales. The Bulldogs have never advanced to the state championship.
“It was a goal of ours for sure, but it wasn’t easy,” said Germaine about reaching the state semifinals. “When you get to the end of the regular season and you start the playoffs, it gets tougher and tougher and I’m sure that’s gonna be the case next week.”