Andrew Luberda: The County Line, Week Four

The County Line

Well, by now many fans of the Cardinals, Sun Devils and Wildcats should be recovering from what was a dismal weekend of football.

Better football is coming this week, at least of the Arizona high school variety.

So, let’s get to it as some team’s approach the season’s midpoint, when the contenders start separating from the pretenders.

Defense wins championships – This cliché is true more times than not, and at Queen Creek its’ defense might just be championship caliber.

After allowing 21 and 28 points in their first two wins of the season, the Bulldogs have been stingy since, giving up only nine points in their last two wins, including last week’s three-point effort at 6A Boulder Creek in Anthem.

As impressive as that is, it’s the defense’s performance against Hamilton – the Huskies scored 28 points – that may be most impressive.

Long-time and well-respected Arizona high school sports reporter Jason Skoda opined in a tweet last Friday that Hamilton, which has averaged 48 points per game in its three wins, might have the best offense it’s had in years.

The Bulldogs held the Huskies 20 points below their three-win scoring average.

Roger Suchomel, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator, told me during fall training camp that he was cautiously optimistic about his defense this season, adding it was far ahead at that point of the season than a year ago. He even indicated the defense was then performing at a level not seen until week six or seven last year.

If you know Suchomel, he reserves most public commendations until season’s end, but the veteran coach had a complimentary tone when speaking with me in late July. He knew what he had, and now the Bulldogs’ defense is performing the only way it knows:  The QC Way.

Combs congratulations – We’re always happy to see coaches and players get significant wins, especially their first of the season and career.

Last week, the Coyotes made the trek to Prescott and came away with their first victory, defeating Bradshaw Mountain, 28 – 17. The win was also the first for new head coach Travis Miller, the Yotes’ former offensive coordinator who returned after a year away to take the head gig.

The win was big for Miller’s team too after a pair of turnover-filled losses to start the season.

“Staying focused is our big thing now,” Miller told County Line Preps. “Even just getting this win – you could see some carryover from the previous season – that win was really big for our seniors.

“They’ve been really hungry for a win, especially early in the season,” he continued. “Now they have that monkey off their back.”

Gone but not forgotten – During my time writing for the SEV Ledger and later San Tan Valley PRSS, I had the privilege to get to know three Combs High School head coaches that have either moved on or are no longer coaching.

One of them is former football head coach Jesse Hart. The other two are former basketball head coach Kirk Fauske and former baseball head coach John Scrogham. All three were responsible for changing an athletic culture at the school that, quite frankly, needed it.

Hart, in particular, accomplished perhaps the greatest feat, turning a perennial dormant program into a consistent winner. The Yotes made playoff appearances in three of his four years. He is now the defensive coordinator at Mesa Westwood.

The Warriors’ 35 – 0 victory against Maryvale last Friday night rekindled fond memories for me of the unparalleled turnaround orchestrated by Coach Hart. I’m happy to see him have success at his next stop.

(Not) looking ahead – The Poston Butte football team is 2 – 1 after its second-straight win last Friday, a 37 – 26 victory at Glendale. Only a one-point loss in overtime to undefeated Goldwater separates the Broncos from being a perfect 3 – 0 heading into Friday’s Homecoming game versus winless Vista Grande.

Coaches like to preach to their teams not to look ahead but that doesn’t mean we can’t.

With a win against the Spartans, the Broncos will improve to 3 – 1, making my friend Ralph Amsden’s playoff prediction come closer to reality.

Head coach Dain Thompson told County Line Preps he wants his players to “take part of the whole experience” of Homecoming Week.

Then came the disclaimer.

“All in moderation,” Thompson said.

A certain nod to his team not to underestimate Friday’s opponent.

The Little Caesars Player of the Week – On the heels of his 338-yard, five touchdown performance against Sahuarita on Sept. 1, Florence’s Nolan Susel was our POTW. He had 234 rushing yard, a pair of touchdowns and an interception last week against Valley Christian.

Follow @CountyLinePreps on Twitter for our announcement of this week’s POTW.

Here’s a hint:  This week’s winner won’t be found on the gridiron.

Finally, please visit for more content related to teams in Queen Creek and San Tan Valley.