The signature play of Matt Guida’s astounding junior season looked like a split-second decision, but was actually days in the making.
As Queen Creek’s junior running back watched film with offensive line coach Travis Schureman, it was apparent Division III semifinal foe-Nogales liked to tackle runners by diving at their legs.
“The whole week before he kept reminding me to keep your knees high, to keep your feet up. because they bite ankles,” Guida said. “So I said, ‘Coach, would you get mad at me if I hurdled somebody?’ He said, ‘Not if you make it. But you better make it.’”
That was enough permission.
On his fourth run of the game, Guida broke into the second level of the defense and a safety flew at him. With no room to maneuver right or left, it was time. Guida rose up and hurdled the defender, came down, dodged a couple more would-be tacklers and finished with a 61-yard gain.
“There are a handful of moments during the season where he did something and you almost become a fan at that point,” Queen Creek coach Joe Germaine said. “That was a play right there.”
It wasn’t the longest run of the season for Guida, but it was symbolic of the way he treated defenses. The Bulldogs’ driving force finished the season with 204 carries for a state-best 2,829 yards and 31 touchdowns in being the Tribune’s Football Player of the Year. Guida averaged 13.87 yards per carry, better than any player in the state who carried the ball at least 10 times per game.
Guida led the Bulldogs to a 14-0 record and their first state championship in school history, but has a hard time explaining his seemingly natural ability to find gaps in the defense.
“Something just takes over me,” he said. “I don’t think. I don’t breathe, even. I just run. Some plays I’ll get up after a really good run, and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, did I really just do that?’”
When Guida took over as the starting running back for Queen Creek midway through his sophomore season, Germaine was just happy to find a “home run” threat. Too many times, the team could churn out 15- or 20-yard gains but not turn them into long touchdowns.
Guida brought that element, but he wasn’t content being just a speedster. He packed on 27 pounds of muscle and grew an inch in just three and a half months.
And the newly built 5-foot-11, 190-pounder was not only bigger and stronger, but he became faster.
Everyone at Queen Creek knew what was about to be unleashed, and soon every opponent found out. Guida ran for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in every game, and eclipsed the 200-yard mark in eight of the team’s 14 games.
“We knew coming into this year we had a great player,” Germaine said.
Guida isn’t done. While the team and individual success were unparalleled at the high school level, he wants to play in college, and isn’t getting the desired recruiting buzz.
So he’s going back into the weight room.
“I was almost a new player this year,” he said. “I was always used to being the little guy but with the new size and strength I would almost always break that first tackle. It might sound a little ridiculous, but I’ll probably grow another inch and I’m looking to be 205 to 210 (pounds) and hopefully pick more speed up. If I put another 20 on, I could probably have another monster year.”
Division III: you’ve been warned.
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All-Tribune First Team Offense
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Kyle Allen Desert Mountain Jr. QB 72 completion pct. for 3,119 yards and 36 TD yielded five-win increase from 2011 season
Matt Guida Queen Creek Jr. RB Ariz.’s unofficial leading rusher (2,829) with 13.9 yards per carry and 31 TD for Div. III champions
Mauriece Lee Marcos de Niza Sr. RB 1,547 yards (10.3 YPC) and 21 TD incl. 286 vs. Chaparral in playoffs; added 24 rec. for 223 yards and 3 TD
Mark Andrews Desert Mountain Jr. WR Overcame diabetes, double-teams to lead state with 1,494 yards and 21 TD on 81 rec
Nate Phillips Basha Sr. WR 76 rec. for 1,223 yards and 15 TD had biggest games vs. quality defenses; solid kick returner
Paul Elvira Marcos de Niza Sr. WR No. 2 behind Andrews in state in yards (1,410) and avg. 23.9 yards per catch; headed to U of A
Kenny Lacy Mountain Pointe Sr. OL All-Arizona at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds; UCLA commit playing in Semper-Fi game
Casey Tucker Hamilton Jr. OL Dominant at 6-foot-6, 280 pounds next to senior Patrick Joseph up front for Div. I champions
Natrell Curtis Mountain Pointe Jr. OL 6-foot-3, 295 pounds with 10 Div. I offers and counting; Anchor on OL and DL for Div. I runners-up
Billy Nichols Pinnacle Sr. OL 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, all-state anchor of O-line that led to 4,700 yards offense; headed to Harvard
Cody King Desert Ridge Sr. OL 6-2, 225 pounds was consensus all-state and arguably best center in AZ
Matt Haggerty Seton Catholic Sr. ATH 1st team all-Div IV by AZFCA; 1,007 yards rec. w/ 19 TD;36 yards per punt and 20+ yards per return
Sam McReynolds Chaparral Sr. K School-record 11-14 FG made, 22 touchbacks on kickoffs
Ryan Neel Horizon Sr. KR Averaged 18.1 yards per punt return, 34.2 per kick return; 5 TD
All-Tribune First Team Defense
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Lorenzo Melvin Desert Vista Sr. DL Relentless motor led to 70 tackles (9 tackles for loss), 9 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles
Qualen Cunningham Hamilton Jr. DL Rangy, athletic defensive end the next in litany of top Hamilton D-lineman
Drew Burgesser Williams Field Sr. DL 22 tackles for loss, 12 1/2 sacks for Div. III semifinalists
Drake Danielson Queen Creek Sr. DL Made seemingly every tackle on D-Line for Div. IV champions; 10 sacks
Santana Sterling Hamilton Sr. LB A leader in middle and part of stellar junior class for Div. I champs
Jake Roh Chaparral Sr. LB Heart of Firebirds; 72 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 INT, 2 blocked FG at LB; 805 yards and 13 TD receiving
Robert Relf Brophy Sr. LB Consensus AZFCA Top 25 saw time in all areas of defense on field; committed to Florida Atlantic
Jalen Brown Mountain Pointe Jr. DB 10 Div. I offers after 5 INT and school records at WR (67 catches for 1,235 yards, 18 TD)
Cole Luke Hamilton Sr. DB Two-time All-Tribune first-teamer headed to Notre Dame; dangerous punt returner
Priest Willis Marcos de Niza Sr. DB Arguably No. 1 college prospect in state didn’t have huge numbers because offenses avoided him
Anthony Hovorka Desert Ridge Sr. DB 102 tackles, 5 forced fumbles and 4 INT was leader of stingy defense for Div. I semifinalists
Nathan Ellingsen Scottsdale Christian Sr. P Second in state with 44.84 yards per punt, including 80-yarder; 2 INT, 4 passes defended at DB
Sean Schweichler Williams Field Sr. PR 8 punt returns for 332 yards and three returned for TD; rushed for 1,517 yards and 34 total TD
Player of the year: Matt Guida, Queen Creek.
Coach of the year: Joe Germaine, Queen Creek: Nearly consensus pick among EV coaches found right staff and built Queen Creek into a Division III power in three years
All-Tribune Second Team Offense
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Ryan Finley Paradise Valley Sr. QB Led AZ in comp. (270) and yards (3,442) with 35 TD; 4.5 GPA and headed to Boise State
J.J. Husar Desert Ridge Sr. RB Avg. 10.1 yards per carry and 14 TD in 8 games before season-ending ACL injury
Garette Craig Mountain Pointe Sr. RB 1,563 yards rushing (8.6 YPC) and 16 TD, plus 35 catches for 530 yards for Div. I runners-up
Drake Pierre Red Mountain Sr. WR 71 rec., 1,148 yds.; recruited by Air Force, Ivy League, Div. II offers; RM career leader in rec. and yards
Christian Kirk Saguaro So. WR Potential top prospect; 1,005 yards rec., 16 total TD; 26.3 yards per punt return, 4 INT on defense
Grant Martinez Notre Dame Sr. TE ASU commit had 43 rec., 561 yards, 9 TD
Tyler Shank Chandler Sr. OL 6-foot-4, 290-pound motor was catalyst in protecting QB Darell Garretson
Patrick Johnson Paradise Valley Sr. OL 6-4, 285-pounder headed to Idaho after three-year starter and team captain
Devin Brunetti Saguaro Sr. OL ACFA All-Div. III choice in front of lethal offense
Austin Hall Brophy Jr. OL 6-foot-5, 295-pound guard a first-team AZFCA selection with nearly every Pac-12 school in pursuit
Patrick Joseph Hamilton Sr. OL 6-foot-3, 280-pounds and team’s emotional leader committed to Army
Luke Rubenzer Saguaro Jr. ATH A nightmare to defend: .687 completion pct., 36 TD, 6 INT; 1,184 rushing yards and 10 TD
Luis Bustillos Mountain View Jr. K 7 of 11 field goals made; 20 touchbacks in 57 kickoffs
Erick Belcher Campo Verde Jr. KR Led state with 38.7 yard return average, returned 2 for TD
All-Tribune Second Team Defense
Name School Yr. Pos. Comment
Byron Bourgogne Higley Sr. DL Main bright spot on Knights with 11 sacks; also excellent punter
Grant Thompson Highland Jr. DL Registered 75 tackles, 10.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries
Parker Zellers Notre Dame Sr. DL 49 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles while double-teamed on nearly every down.
Greg Labenz Seton Catholic Sr. LB Heart of defense led Sentinels in tackles (116) and sacks (8); shined in playoffs for Div. IV champions
Wesley Payne Mountain Pointe Jr. LB School-record in tackles, seven passes defended, 2 INT, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries
Andrew Curtis Brophy Sr. LB Owns school record with 176 career solo tackles and played snaps on offense; headed to Florida Atlantic
Luke Tafurri Notre Dame Sr. LB Two-way starter and heart of the Saints had 80 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 INT; 800 yards rushing and 11 TD
Mike Graff Queen Creek Sr. DB 65 tackles and his 9 INT tied for second in AZ; returned punts and had 19 rec. for 374 yards and 5 TD;
Levi Sterling Hamilton Jr. DB All-Divison and All-Section cornerback was at times best DB on field even with Cole Luke
Nick Farina Desert Vista Sr. DB Team captain and top-notch safety had 80 tackles and 6 INT; committed to South Dakota St.
Caleb Nicoll Mountain View Sr. DB 7 INT (2 returned for TD), 55 tackles, two fumble recoveries and named Mesa city defensive POY
Garrett Seilheimer Chaparral Sr. P Averaged 41.3 yards per punt, landed five inside 20
Devon Allen Brophy Sr. PR 18 yards per return; 749 yards receiving and 10 TD despite injuries; top college prospect
Honorable Mention (local schools only)
Desert Vista: Dylan Fischer, Sr., OL/DL; Kaleb Germinaro, Sr., WR/DB; Jarek Hilgers, Sr., RB/LB; Zack Tamburo, Sr., OL; Mitch Wehrli, Sr., OL/DL.
Mountain Pointe: Jimmy Holtrop, Sr., DB; Antonio Hinojosa, Jr., QB; Landry Payne, Sr., DB; Kyle Spith, Jr., OL; Travonn White, Sr., DB.
Memorable Moments from the 2012 season
Huskies bite back: From an 0-2 start to a state title. The proverbial sky was falling as Hamilton’s offensive woes in August set the Arizona football world on its side. The Huskies, however, righted themselves with a dominant defense, solid special teams and just enough points, and won out en route to a seventh state championship in the past decade with a 31-16 victory over Mountain Pointe (which beat Hamilton in Week 1). The title was coach Steve Belles’ fifth at Hamilton which ties him with Jesse Parker for most all-time among big school coaches in state history.
Seton scores: After succumbing to the White Mountain powerhouses in its recent past, Seton Catholic broke through for its first state title since 1997. The Sentinels successfully navigated injuries to their offensive line and backfield, most notably when QB Ryan Bresnahan suffered a broken hand in a loss to Tempe Prep. David Gesicki stepped in for the final two-thirds of the regular season and was terrific. A QB shuffle ensued between the two guys, but the kids and Seton coach Rex Bowser pulled off such a fickle feat without major discord in the team. The Sentinels wound up riding Bresnahan and their defense to wins against Cottonwood Mingus, Show Low and Blue Ridge to capture the Div. IV championship.
State championship safety: Queen Creek and Desert Edge were deadlocked at 7-7 as the fourth quarter of the Division III state championship game ticked down inside the final minute, and overtime seemed imminent. However, a high snap flew over Desert Edge punter Chris Brown’s head and into the end zone. Brown picked it up, spun and looked to kick, but Tucker Workman tackled him for a safety. The Bulldogs recovered the onside kick for the 9-7 victory, a 14-0 season and the school’s first state championship.
Forfeit flap: Revitalized Tempe headed to Saguaro with a 2-0 record for an early-season showdown, but it was soon clear the Sabercats were on a different level. The Sabercats dominated the game, and things got chippy. Three Buffaloes players suffered major injuries, a Saguaro player and a Tempe assistant coach were ejected, and penalty flags flew consistently. The Tempe coaches were so convinced Saguaro was delivering cheap shots that the Buffaloes left at halftime. The Buffaloes forfeited and were warned by the Arizona Interscholastic Association for leaving early. Saguaro was not punished.
Ill-timed injuries: For Desert Ridge and Brophy, the 2012 will forever remain a big question mark. The Jaguars lost star running back J.J. Husar for the year to a torn ACL against Mesa in Week 8. At first the team thought the injury was minor and he would return in time for the quarterfinals, but an MRI revealed the structural damage. Then, in the state quarterfinals, quarterback Tarek Morrison went down with an ACL tear of his own. The Jaguars fought valiantly in the semifinals but lost to Hamilton. Brophy running back Marche Dennard suffered a sprained ankle and was used sparingly the rest of the postseason. Wide receiver Devon Allen sprained his ankle against the Wolves and was also hobbled. Brophy squeaked past Red Mountain in the quarterfinals but didn’t have enough offense in a semifinal loss to Mountain Pointe.
Upset cities: As usual, the season wasn’t without upsets and frantic finishes. Paradise Valley beat Saguaro in Week 1 on the game’s final drive, the same night Mountain Pointe got a late turnover to beat Hamilton. Red Mountain won a shootout with Brophy to put the Lions on the map, but Mountain View stifled Red Mountain’s passing attack and blocked a kick to help force overtime, then beat the Lions on an overtime field goal. Highland endured injuries galore but knocked off potent Desert Mountain en route to a playoff appearance. Tempe High put everyone on notice during the Buffaloes’ 6-win, turnaround season with a 28-27 win over Poston Butte. In Div. V Tempe Prep handed Seton its only loss of the season, and later used its defense and a blocked kick to beat No. 1 Phoenix Northwest Christian late in the regular season en route to the Div. V semifinals.