Chemistry, speed and strength: Queen Creek defense shines through recent success

The Queen Creek defense swarms a Mesa Mountain View runner. (Photo Courtesy of QCHS Athletics)

There are heaps of cliches and adages one may use to describe the necessity of a football team’s defense, but regardless of how it’s put, Queen Creek High School is using its defense well.

Through seven games, the Bulldogs have allowed an average of 24 points per game and in their six wins, they haven’t allowed a team to score more than 30 points. Their lone loss, a 49-21 drubbing from two-time defending 6A state champion Chandler High School, has been the exception.

Still, the Queen Creek defense is complementing an offense averaging 42 points per game, putting the Bulldogs on pace for a high seed in the postseason.

The team’s defense, Head Coach Travis Schureman said, fits well into the team’s synergy with its other units, leading to the team’s recent success.

“(The rest of the team) sees the defense getting along well, communicating well, and that translates to the special teams doing well and the offense doing well,” he said. “I think they all feed off of each other. When one does well, the other does well.”

A solid bond

Within the construct of the Bulldog defense sits a mixture of veterans and newcomers, all of whom Defensive Coordinator Glen Adams said are undersized yet scrappy compared to opponents.

Between the unit’s seniors, linebacker Armando Orona said there is a strong chemistry forged on the youth football fields of Queen Creek.

The Queen Creek defense swarms a Mesa Mountain View runner. (Photo Courtesy of QCHS Athletics)

While QCHS is a 6A school, the state’s largest classification, the Town of Queen Creek is not a big city. Census estimations put the town’s population at just north of 35,500, a stark increase from the population of a bit more than 3,800 people 18 years ago.

This small-but-growing town lends itself to players being largely familiar with each other both on and off the field, Orona said. With a strong and lasting friendships comes a level of trust that has manifested itself on the football field for Queen Creek High School.

“We know each other’s strengths, we know each other’s weaknesses, so we try to help each other out in that way,” Orona said. “On the field, we know our abilities and responsibilities. … We have trust in each other and we know that will hold our own, hold ourselves accountable in our jobs on the field.”

With the solid core of chemistry, those seniors can move into helping younger guys such as junior Zane Lalama, the team’s leading tackler, and sophomore Trey Reynolds.
Senior leadership, Coach Schureman said, is an important aspect of any team, especially if it wants to be successful.

“This is their last chance so they’ll get to set how the season goes,” he said. “We’ve been very blessed with great senior leadership that’s done a great job at really taking this team and making it a tight-knit group.”

Coach Schureman said he has leaders on every aspect of the defense. In the secondary, he looks to Jett Koester and

Danny Marshall to help while Orona and Fritzny Niclasse help direct the linebackers. On the line, Coach Schureman pointed to Christian Fuhrman and Isaak Clonts as leaders.

By example is how Coach Adams notices the senior defensive players lead. Coach Adams also serves as the team’s strength coach and he said he’s seen the effort the seniors have put in since the spring and that example has carried to the younger guys.

As for the younger players, Coach Adams said the team focuses heavily on basic defensive skills, so much so that while the scheme was different, the younger players picked it up because they realized it still was basic defensive skills. He also said coaching in the weight room helps his younger players assimilate.

“I get all of them in the weight room and I can ride them like bad ponies in there and make sure they are doing what I need them to do,” he said. “Then we step out on the field, they know what I expect from them as a coach even though I haven’t been their coach.”

Adam Bowcutt (64) and the Queen Creek defense bring down a Chandler runner. (Photo Courtesy of QCHS Athletics)

The defensive scheme

Coach Adams said when it comes to size, he believes his team is on the smaller end of the spectrum. That size differential, however, hasn’t deterred the defense’s efforts, he said.

Coach Adams described his unit as smart players who “fly to the football.” This comes, he said, because of the emphasis he places on speed and strength as a strength and conditioning coach.

“I can’t make them six-foot-four and 270 (pounds), but I can make them faster and stronger than they are,” he said.

He also cited different schemes the team uses to counteract the size imbalance.

This year also marked a first for the Bulldogs as they began running a 4-3 defense, which typically calls for four defensive lineman and three linebackers. So far this season, Coach Adams said he believed the transition has gone well.

This is Coach Adams’s first year as defensive coordinator. He said when he got the appointment, Coach Schureman expressed his desire to change from the team’s previous formation.

Coach Adams said he began instilling it immediately and noticed it fit the team’s talent set superbly.
The Bulldogs still have three games left in the regular season including a Oct. 5 matchup against Mesa Desert Ridge High School. Orona said the goal moving forward is to better execute blitzes and better disguise coverages.

Following Desert Ridge, the Bulldogs will have a bye week but return Friday, Oct. 19 against Gilbert Highland High School before finishing up on the road against Phoenix Desert Vista High School Friday, Oct. 26.

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