No one can say that Steve Campbell doesn’t have guts.
And Friday night, the coach’s gambling ways helped Williams Field win big.
After a defensive struggle all game, the Black Hawks took the lead late on a fourth-down touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Zack Shepherd to Justis Stokes to propel the home team to a 16-9 win over Queen Creek in the San Tan region title game.
Williams Field finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0. Both teams will start postseason play next week.
“I just hope we don’t end up on the same side of the bracket as Queen Creek,” Campbell said after the dog fight.
That gutsy call on fourth-and-10 wasn’t an easy one, the coach said. Williams Field has the best field goal kicker in the state in Alabama-bound Brandon Ruiz, who had already hit from 40 yards out earlier in the game. The offense had really been struggling against the tough Queen Creek defense. Shepherd had been sacked four times.
Despite the early struggles, the sophomore said he welcomed the opportunity.
“We’ve been working all season long and all offseason to get into those types of situations and be able to execute,” Shepherd said. “I threw it up to Justis, he made the play and we scored.”
Shepherd connected with Stokes from 27 yards out on the go-ahead score.
The Williams Field defense stepped up big on the next drive. Zane Mckinney sacked Devin Larsen for a nine-yard loss and the Bulldogs drive stalled deep in its own territory.
“The defense did an unbelievable job,” Campbell said. “Those guys have been underrated all year long and for them to come out there and play the way they did today was huge.”
The Black Hawks extended their lead on their next possession with a five-yard touchdown run by Jordan Neal and held on for the win.
Friday marked the second week in a row that Williams Field captured a victory after a fourth-quarter rally.
“The last two weeks we’ve had have been brawls. Both are unbelievable football teams so we’ve had to overcome adversity,” Campbell said. “That’s what I think carries you into the playoffs because you’re going to see those situations again, and how do you respond?”
The region title guarantees the Black Hawks a home game in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
“Whoever we draw, we’re going to be ready,” Shepherd said.