There is a way-back picture that quarterback guru Mike Giovando keeps of Spencer Rattler with two little guys coming up to his shoulder.
They are Devon Dampier and Demond Willams Jr., who were proteges of Rattler, the biggest of Giovando's cadre of quarterbacks. They wanted to be like Rattler. Be the guy who did great things on football fields. Be the guy everybody looked up. Be stars.
Years later, they've made it to the biggest stage. Dampier, a senior, is leading Scottsdale Saguaro to what he hopes is a second consecutive Open Division state high school football championship on Saturday at 6 p.m., at Sun Devil Stadium. The Open Division promotes the top eight teams from among 6A, 5A and 4A at the end of the season in a separate playoff bracket.
But he'll have to outduel Williams, the Chandler Basha junior who has put the Bears' offense on his back in every big win this year. That fourth-quarter comeback win over Hamilton. The 50-yard bomb in the final minute that led to the winning score to beat Chandler in the regular season. That run to the pylon for the only touchdown in a semifinal win last week over Chandler.
These guy are so much alike that both defenses will be well-prepared to face the quarterbacks because they've seen those razzle-dazzle running moves and cannon throws in practices all season.
"Our defense is used to having a quarterback who can make chicken salad out of chicken scratch," Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. "I had a college coach say to me one time, 'What makes Devon special?' And it's what makes Demond special, is you don't have to dial up the perfect play all the time.
"There are going to be times when you don't call the right play and something breaks down, and they can turn it into an explosive play. They're special. They're competitors. I can't speak for Demond. But I can speak for Devon. When the ball is in his hands, we've got a chance. He's going to make it happen. He's not just a playmaker. But he's also a competitor. He gives you everything he's got."
Giovando saw these big-play attributes from Dampier and Williams when they were sixth graders and coming up to Rattler's shoulder in workouts at a park.
"Those two kids have been training with each other for the past six to seven years, since they were tiny," Giovando said. "I just love their competitivness. They're very good-natured kids. They're great leaders. They're great teammates. They're just outstanding kids all the way around.
"And they both train and work so hard in the offseason."
Dampier and Williams said they talked during those group workouts under Giovando last summer about playing in the big game to end the season.
"We were saying, 'We're going to have a good chance of seeing each other in the championship game for the first time in our high school career,' " Williams said.
Difference makers all season
Williams is a year younger than Dampier, who was the same age when he led Saguaro to the Open final title last year.
Dampier was the difference maker for Saguaro, given the keys to the offense in the playoffs and manuevering the Sabercats to wins over unbeaten Glendale Cactus, nationally ranked Hamilton and nationally ranked Chandler to the school's 13th overall championship, but first in the Open Division,
"Both Demond and I over the summer actually talked about this," said Dampier, who will be signing with New Mexico on Dec. 21 and be enrolled in the Albuquerque school for spring semester after completing his high school academics. "We said we both got to find a way to get to that Open championship.
"It's exciting. Basha is a great team. They've got some great players over there."
Basha is making its first-ever trip to a football final because of a strong defense, superb athletes and the legs and arm of Williams, who has been the varsity starter since his freshman year.
Williams, 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, is listed as four-star recruit by 247Sports, the No. 18-ranked dual threat QB in the nation in the 2024 high school class. His offers so far include Arizona State, Arizona, California, Ole Miss and UCLA.
This season, Williams has passed for 2,165 yards and 23 touchdowns with just one interception in his 217 passing attempts, completing 146. He has run for 709 yards and five TDs.
His counterpart, Dampier, 6-foot, 190 pounds, has passed for 2,349 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 66% of his passes. His five interceptions all came during Saguaro's 2-3 start to the season. He has rushed for 1,206 yards and 10 TDs.
What makes these two quarterbacks special is the way they can both bail out the offense when things appear to be going sideways with their tremendous athleticism and headiness. Williams showed that in the 26-23 comeback win over Hamilton on Oct. 20, when he rallied his team from a 23-9 deficit in the final 10 minutes with his arm.
Dampier's best game in his career came last week in a 43-42 win over top-ranked Peoria Liberty, leading the Sabercats with his legs in the first half, then turning it on in the final quarter with his arm, throwing two TD passes in the last eight minutes and a two-point conversion pass with a minute to play to go from down 42-28 to up 43-42.
"They're both special," Basha coach Chris McDonald said of the two quarterbacks. "Any opponent that takes on Saguaro that has a really dynamic, athletic quarterback probably has a leg up in practice compared to those who don't.
"Dampier is very hard to replicate. We have to some how figure a way to corral him and make him one-dimensionaly, which has been a struggle for pretty much everyone who has played them. He's really good."
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Basha's Williams, Saguaro's Dampier take stage for epic QB showdown