Canyon del Oro was on a seven-game losing streak against Amphitheater School District rival Ironwood Ridge dating to 2010 when the likes of Ka’Deem Carey, Blake Martinez and Jared Tevis played for the Dorados.
Although Friday night’s 35-6 win over the Nighthawks was the first meeting of the schools since 2017, Ironwood Ridge’s dominance over his program was not lost on coach Dustin Peace.
“It’s good for these young men to have that statement,” said Peace, who is now 3-7 against the northside rivals. “The rivalry is not what it used to be as far as the animosity. It’s a healthy relationship. These boys are at the park together.
“Ironwood Ridge and CDO at the park, without the coaches doing 7-on-7, competing with each other not so much against them. I’m happy that it was a healthy, competitive game for both sides. There was no unsportsmanlike stuff. It was the way football was supposed to be played.”
CDO senior quarterback Montana Neustadter exchanged hellos with some of the Nighthawks before sending them home with a surprise lopsided defeat because of his dominant performance.
He completed 10 of 14 pass attempts for 170 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and engineered CDO’s ball-control offense to perfection with 78 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns.
His production helped ease the loss of star running back Stevie Rocker Jr. sitting the entire second half because of a left ankle injury that was iced and heavily wrapped. The severity of Rocker’s injury is undetermined although he said after the game, he is “fine.”
Rocker, an Arizona commit who finished with 38 yards on six carries, has been dogged by injuries every season since his freshman year.
“I just feel bad for the kid,” Peace said. “He has a future playing this game. It’s only positive for him. If one kid has the positivity and the smile and energy to make it through this adversity, he’s the kid.”
.@cdo_football coach Dustin Peace talks about the 35-6 win over rival Ironwood Ridge, the Dorados’ first win over the Nighthawks since 2010 but laments the loss of RB Stevie Rocker in the game to an ankle injury. Rocker, a UA commit, told me after the game he is fine. pic.twitter.com/jD8SpcSFZ6
CDO established long time-consuming drives from the start, going 68 yards on 13 plays that took 7:02 off the clock in the first possession of the game. The Dorados came up empty turning the ball over with a loss of downs at the Nighthawks’ 12.
Another long drive in the second quarter — 13 plays amassing 77 yards in 6:48 — concluded with finally the first score of the game. Neustadter ran it in from 5 yards with 1:12 left in the half. In the drive, he rushed three times for 23 yards and completed a 10-yard pass to Dustin Sheeley to the Ironwood Ridge 4 before his score two plays later.
“It wasn’t just me that stepped up, the whole team did their part,” said Neustadter, whose team is now 2-1 heading into its scheduled game at Catalina Foothills next week. “The line was blocking great tonight, the best movement we’ve had all season.
“This was my best performance. This whole week I’ve been working hard, getting everything down, my footwork, technique, everything down. It paid off tonight.”
.@cdo_football QB @Montana_neust9 completed 10 of 14 passes for 170 yards with two TDs. Also rushed for 78 yards on 14 carries with three TDs. More than that, was a force as a senior leader. #AZPreps365 #ASThssports pic.twitter.com/pCUI7esBaT
On the kickoff following his 5-yard score, Ironwood Ridge fumbled it away at its 42. Two completions by Neustadter to Jack Greenfield for 25 yards was followed by a 16-yard scoring strike to Sheeley with 6.3 seconds left to put the Dorados up 14-0 at halftime.
Ironwood Ridge had only one possession in the first quarter and just three the entire first half totaling 12 offensive plays for 75 yards. CDO, meanwhile, had 38 plays for 204 yards in the half.
“We were grinding the ball in the first half; they didn’t get too many possessions,” Peace said. “We made some big plays there to get 14 (points) going into the half. It was a momentum swing and we just kept running with it.”
Three plays into the first possession of the second half, Sheeley made an interception and returned it 13 yards to the Ironwood Ridge 12. Two plays later, Neustadter scored on a 14-yard run that put the Dorados ahead 21-0 with 9:28 left in the third quarter.
.@cdo_football coach Dustin Peace talks about healthy rivalry with IRHS after the 35-6 win and also the tribute to the seniors before the game in which they ran on to the field after their name was announced like it was the Super Bowl. No game is guaranteed. Nice idea by a parent pic.twitter.com/pLJUcOD1w8
He scored his third rushing touchdown on CDO’s next possession, a 3-yard play that put the Dorados ahead 28-0 with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Twice thereafter, Ironwood Ridge got the ball into CDO territory but came up empty. The Nighthawks stalled at the Dorado 49 with a turnover on downs and CDO lineman Jose Zazueta stripped the ball loose for a fumble recovery at the the Dorado 7.
After that fumble, Neustadter completed a 24-yard pass to Sheeley and then hooked up with Damian Cline for a 52-yard score with 6:02 left in the game to increase the lead to 35-0. Cline appeared as if he was going to be tackled but spun free from contact and sped into the end zone.
“This game is big because we don’t know if it’s our last one or what’s going to happen,” Sheeley said, referencing games canceled in abundance weekly because of positive COVID-19 tests. “I think the team came out and played their best and did everything we can.
“It open things up when (Neustadter) runs the ball like he does. He threw the ball pretty good tonight. It opened everything up for us.”
Sheeley had three catches for 50 yards and Greenfield had three receptions for 37 yards. Cline finished with two catches for 61 yards.
Ironwood Ridge got on the board with 4:03 left in the game on Jordan Thomas’ 2-yard run. Chase Cassel, the third quarterback used by the Nighthawks, completed 3 of 4 passes for 60 yards in that possession.
Ironwood Ridge (0-2) is scheduled to host Desert View on Friday.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.