Friday night kicked off the high school season here in Arizona and the Queen Creek Bulldogs were back in form as they hosted the Poston Butte Broncos.
The Division III state runner-up Bulldogs carried the momentum that brought them all the way to the state title game last season, defeating the Broncos in very convincing fashion, 43-0.
"We have high expectations every year here at Queen Creek," said Bulldog head coach Travis Schureman. "We want to do great things and try to continue to be successful in everything we do - so we wanted to come out and play, and play hard, and come out of the shoot fast."
And that they did.
Within the first few plays of the game, senior quarterback Bryce Dobbs connected with senior wide receiver Skyler Bollman for a 49-yard touchdown pass play. Senior running back standout Weston Barlow began his tear on the night by converting the two point conversion with a rush to the outside.
On Poston Butte's opening drive they were pinned inside their own ten yard line and were forced to punt. On first down at the Bronco's 24-yard line, Barlow broke a tackle in the middle of the field and found his way out to the sideline where he was finally brought down at the 2-yard line. From there he punched in his first score of the night right up the middle.
Late in the first quarter Poston Butte appeared to be putting together a solid drive. Running back Brandon Hatfield strung together a few solid runs, including a 20-yard rush that brought the Broncos into Bulldog territory. However, the end of the first quarter seemed to quell their momentum and a big sack by Bollman forced another punt.
The Bulldog offense functioned smoothly throughout the night with the offensive line protecting for the quarterback and opening up lanes for the running backs.
With 169 yards rushing and four touchdowns, Barlow should once again be the backbone of the offense - but it was evident that there is plenty of potential in the passing attack. Dobbs completed eight of ten passes for 227 yards and a touchdown.
"We knew we had capability there," said Dobbs after the game. "I can't do it without my line. They gave me time and my receivers went up for the ball so everybody helped me out."
His primary targets were tight ends Jordan Ackert and Hunter Redd, and Bollman who caught multiple deep balls.
From the players' perspective, the passing game will help mix things up for opposing defenses this season.
"We need to be big on passing this year," said Bollman. "Last year we rushed a lot. If we can separate it a little bit it will keep more defenses confused about what we are going to do."
Bollman transitioned into a two-way player this season, and it is already looking like a beneficial move.
"[Bollman] did a great job for us," said Shureman. "He was a defensive end that played for us last year and we saw some great things with him in the summer so we thought we would try it out - and he runs great routes and goes up and gets the ball."
Although there was a balanced offensive game of rushing and passing, much of the credit for the shutout victory has to be given to the defense that kept heavy pressure on the Broncos all night long.
"We knew we needed to get better on defense. That was something we worked on. We were young last year on the defensive side of the ball so we have a lot of kids coming back, and you know when you're running to the football and playing eleven man to the ball great things will happen," Shureman said.
"We did some good things. We have some work to do and some things to crisp up. But with the overall performance I am pleased where we were at tonight."
Students flash their phone screens - "The stars are out tonight"
Standing room only crowd in the stands and around the stadium fence
The Broncos showed up in large numbers for their season opener