CATCH UP ON THIS SERIES BY CLICKING HERE
CHAMPIONSHIP: Class 4A (known as AA at the time)
SCORE: Canyon del Oro 24, Douglas 15
DATE: November 26, 1976
SITE: Sunnyside High School
GAME SUMMARY: Canyon del Oro won its first state championship, finishing with an 11-0 record under first-year coach Bob Smith by building a 24-8 lead over Douglas (10-2) and holding off the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.
The game was a rematch from a regular-season affair in which CDO prevailed 21-7 by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
CDO, which opened its doors 12 years previously in 1964, dominated because of its wishbone running attack that was implemented by Smith. They gained 221 yards on the ground with running back Greg Connor rushing for 158 yards. He scored his 18th touchdown and eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season in the game.
CDO’s Richard Beal opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 32-yard field goal that hit the cross bar and bounced through.
Smith put some fight into his boys in the second quarter deciding to go for a first down on a fourth-and-1 on CDO’s 33-yard line. A 2-yard plunge by fullback Kevin Gaston got the yards the Dorados needed and they fed off that momentum.
CDO scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to go into halftime with a 17-0 lead.
Douglas quarterback Tony Rose, the Arizona record-holder in career passing yards and touchdowns at the time, engineered a touchdown drive to start the second half to cut the lead to 17-7. Rose completed only 3 of 11 passes in the first half but converted 12 of 22 in the second half and led two scoring drives.
The Bulldogs had opportunities three times within the CDO 35-yard line in the game but turned the ball over on downs each time.
Despite that, the Douglas offense mustered 15 points against a stingy CDO defense that was allowing only 4.8 points per game that season.
Connor’s 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter increased the lead to 24-7.
Rose generated a touchdown drive culminating with a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion attempt with 9:00 left to cut the lead to 24-15 but the Bulldogs could not muster a threat thereafter.
THEY SAID IT: “Our offense got better as the season progressed. It may have turned out better that way because we didn’t peak early in the season. We did at the end when we needed it the most.” — CDO coach Bob Smith to the Tucson Citizen.
DID YOU KNOW: Smith coached CDO from 1976 to 1983, also leading the Dorados to the 1977 state championship. His record was 54-29-2 with the Dorados. In that 1976 season, Smith coached CDO to its first win in four years over district rival Amphi, first victory over nearby Flowing Wells in seven seasons and first AA-South title before winning the first state championship. Smith, former linebacker and captain of the NAU football team, was CDO’s defensive coordinator under Art Mangels before taking the head coaching job. He resigned in 1983 to pursue an advanced degree at Arizona and a career in education before becoming the superintendent of Amphitheater Public Schools in 1996.
BOX SCORE (printed in the Tucson Citizen):