Queen Creek has perennially been among the state’s best rushing teams, one that’s averaged almost four thousand yards per season over the past few years.
But the Bulldogs don’t have the likes of a Matt Guida or Weston Barlow returning at running back in 2015. Instead they have a pair of tall and strong passing quarterbacks – Zane Whiting and Tyler Bloom – along with some playmaking receivers that include senior tight end Jordan Ackert and junior receiver Armon McGuire.
Whiting, a six-foot-four senior, started at quarterback during his first two years at Queen Creek and served as the team’s backup last year. As a sophomore he led the Bulldogs’ JV team to an undefeated season. He earned significant playing time at receiver as a junior.
“Zane is a great leader of our program,” Queen Creek head coach Travis Schureman told Sports360AZ.com. “He’s work hard and done all of the things we’ve asked. We’re excited for him and the things he brings to the table.”
Bloom, a senior transfer from Higley, missed all of his junior season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Knights’ season opener last year. During his sophomore season he threw for more than 2,700 yards and tossed 27 touchdown passes.
“We’re getting to know Tyler,” Schureman said. “He’s new to us so we’re excited to see them compete against each other and help each other out.”
Lacking a returning two-thousand yard rusher for the first time in three seasons and having what appear to be some dynamic weapons in the passing game, might the Bulldogs learn a new trick or two and incorporate some more pass plays in the offense this season?
“We’re just going to try to find out what the identity of our football team is this year (during) the spring,” Schureman responded. “Obviously we’ve been a team that likes to run the ball, but we believe by running the ball it opens up the pass.”
It’s too early to know how much Schureman, who coaches the offensive line, might veer (no pun intended) away from what’s been the norm at Queen Creek. Ask any offensive lineman, including Schureman, what they love to do more than anything else and the answer will always be: run block.
Schureman was successful in luring childhood friend and former Bulldogs’ head coach Joe Germaine back to the sidelines where he’ll serve as an offensive coach.
“(Coach Germaine) knows so much offense and (has a high) football IQ,” Whiting said. “It’s a privilege to be able to work with him and design football technique stuff. It’s a real advantage for us.”
Germaine’s return frees up Schureman to spend more time with the offensive linemen, something he feels he didn’t do enough of last year.
“The good thing about spring football is we can work on the little things like technique,” Schureman said. “If we’re not doing the little things right we fix them. We want to work on some of those things we felt like we didn’t do so well last year.”
As far as who could be the next big time running back at Queen Creek?
There are several candidates, including one who played a varsity game as a sophomore and started on defense as a junior in addition to rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns against McClintock.
“I think Gavin Danielson is kid that sticks out and has an opportunity to do real well for us,” Schureman said. “After that we’re just looking for the next kid who’s going to step up. We’re going to continue to work hard up front to make sure whoever is back there gets the yards.”
Queen Creek made deep playoff runs in each of the last three seasons, including a state championship in 2012. The players believe they know what it’s going to take to return to the top of the mountain this season.
“Bond as a team – make sure we’re a family – and fix our mistakes from last year,” said defensive lineman Keaton Pilimai, who has attracted attention from the University of Arizona and San Diego State. “We had a lot of things last year that we can fix and our goals are to fix them this year.”