What a week it’s been for Queen Creek running back Weston Barlow, who was named the Arizona Cardinals High School Player of the Week after rushing for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns last week against Bradshaw Mountain.
Friday night, Barlow picked up where he left off, rushing for 312 yards and four touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 51 – 0 first round playoff victory over Catalina Foothills.
“Our offense had a good week of practice,” Barlow said after the game. “Our line knew they needed to step up and they sure did tonight.”
The Bulldogs’ defense also dominated on Friday, shutting out a Falcons’ team averaging more than 35 points per game and forcing two turnovers.
Queen Creek’s special-teams unit also made its mark against the Falcons when senior Semone Brown returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs all the points they would need to advance to next week’s second round of the playoffs.
“It was great to take the opening kickoff back for a touchdown,” Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman said after the game. “Our defense, man, played their butts off tonight.”
Schureman put his defense on the spot early, calling for an onside kick after Brown’s return. The Falcons recovered it at the 50-yard line, but the Bulldogs’ defense responded by forcing a three and out.
Queen Creek forced Catalina Foothills into three-and-outs on three of the Falcons’ first four possessions to start the game. An interception by Bulldogs’ safety Gavin Danielson ended the other.
A 37-yard field goal by Zach Glaess and two touchdown runs by Barlow, including a 44-yard run to cap a two cap off a two- play, 90-yard drive after Danielson’s interception, gave the Bulldogs a commanding 23 – 0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs officially made it a rout before halftime on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Dobbs to Skyler Bollman, and Barlow’s third touchdown of the first half from 15 yards out.
“Bryce did a great job of getting the ball off quicker tonight and finding some great receivers for great plays,” said Schureman, adding that he was pleased with the pass blocking by the offensive line.
After an uncharacteristically poor rushing performance against Williams Field a few weeks ago, Schureman went to back to basics with his team, determined to return to the type of offense that’s helped the Bulldogs reach the last two State Championship games. He worked with the offensive line on getting off the ball faster and with a bigger “first punch” against opposing defenses.
“For us to be successful we have to run the football,” Schureman said. “That’s what our offense is built upon and I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Of course, having a healthier Weston Barlow always helps. After suffering an injury that sidelined him for two games and playing at less the full strength until two games ago, Barlow appears to be as healthy as he’s been in some time.
He looked like it Friday night.
“I’m healthy,” Barlow answered when asked about the injury. “It’s been long road this year with the whole injury thing, but I’m feeling good and it’s good to be in the playoffs.”
Friday’s win sets up what figures to be one of the more intriguing and highly anticipated games, so far, in this year’s playoffs. The fifth-seeded Bulldogs will take on fourth-seeded Desert Edge next week. The team’s last met in the 2012 Division III State Championship game which was won by Queen Creek, 9 – 7.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Schureman said about next week’s game versus the Scorpions. “We’ll get on the bus and see what happens.”