Casa Grande earns 4A Kino region title; CDO awaits playoff fate after loss

Casa Grande senior quarterback Angel Flores (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

CDO’s Senior Night lasted a few minutes because of only eight seniors on the Dorados’ roster, but the game was within reach well into the third quarter against Casa Grande and its 17 seniors, including Angel Flores, one of the top quarterbacks in the state.

The Cougars, the fifth-ranked 5A team in the state, prevailed 28-6 against No. 15 CDO after tacking on a touchdown with 3.6 seconds left instead of taking a knee in an effort to enhance point differential for the AIA’s power rating.

“It is what it is,” CDO coach Dustin Peace said of the late touchdown. “We didn’t do our job to stop them.”

Casa Grande (9-0, 3-0 in the 4A Kino) earned the region title with the win but that does not automatically qualify the Cougars for the postseason. Class 4A through 6A schools in Arizona make the playoffs based on their power rating.

Peace, whose team had its five-game winning streak snapped, and his Dorados (5-4, 2-1) must now wait, hope and pray they don’t drop out of playoff contention because of this loss and a matchup with No. 41 Sahuaro (1-6, 1-1) on Nov. 12 to end the regular season.

“We have a bye week next week; we’re loving that because we get to heal up and to get some rest mentally and physically,” Peace said. “We have an opportunity to get into the playoffs. We have a tough opponent in Sahuaro. I know Coach (Scott) McKee and I know they’re going to be ready.”

If the Dorados do not make the 16-team playoff field in 5A, it will be only a temporary setback for the young team that has 16 juniors and 20 sophomores.

Included among those are junior quarterback Caden Dawes, who learned how Flores operates, and the heralded sophomore class that includes Division I prospects such as running back/linebacker Kayden Luke, receiver/cornerback Chance Cassel and offensive and defensive tackle Sa’Kylee Woodard.

The Dorados gained only 101 yards of total offense, about half of it with Luke’s 48 yards on 12 carries. Many of those yards came after the burly Luke (5-foot-11 and 200 pounds) broke tackles and took Casa Grande defenders along for a ride the last yard or two.

“We just couldn’t generate offense,” Peace said. “You saw it in the first half (with 48 total yards), a little bit in the second half as well. We bogged down when we needed an opportunity to score … never got things rolling offensively. That was the difference in the game.”

Dawes, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 317 yards with four touchdowns in last week’s win at Pueblo, was limited to 40 yards on 5-of-17 passing against Casa Grande.

The Dorados tallied only eight first downs, one by penalty.

Flores, a 6-foot-2 and 205-pound dual threat quarterback, completed 16 of 21 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown. He also ran for a score with his 76 yards on 15 carries.

“This means everything to us,” said Flores, who is being recruited by Fresno State, Rice, Weber State and NAU. “Being able to come down here and put it on them and be able to win our region — Casa Grande has not been able to do that in a very long time — for this group to do that is very special.”

The last time was in 2015 when Flores and the other seniors were beginning middle school. The Cougars went 5-0 in region play and finished 9-2 overall that season.

R.J. Keeton, another senior, gained 119 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.

Casa Grande senior running back RJ Keeton (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Casa Grande had 379 yards of total offense, 205 on the ground, contributing to sustained drives.

That was the case from the start. The Cougars’ first possession lasted 6:41 in 14 plays covering 70 yards. They did that despite two holding penalties and a personal foul against them.

Keeton capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. Flores was 3 of 4 for 34 yards and rushed for 38 yards on three carries in the possession.

After CDO turned the ball over on downs at the Casa Grande 45 in the following possession, Flores engineered a six-play scoring possession ending with his 13-yard pass to Demetrius Garrett to increase the lead to 14-0 with 6:33 left in the second quarter.

CDO quarterback Caden Dawes hands off to Kayden Luke (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The Dorados thwarted another potential score for Casa Grande in the first half when Flores’ 23-yard pass to Anthony Flores was stopped at the CDO 3-yard line as time expired.

After CDO forced Casa Grande to turn the ball over on downs at the its 27-yard line to open the second half, it could not build on the momentum going three-and-out.

Angel Flores again led a sustained drive of nine plays and 65 yards capped by his 7-yard touchdown run with 2:56 left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 21-0.

CDO then turned the ball over on downs at its 47, but Casa Grande fumbled the ball right back at the 50 with linebacker Jose Zazueta making his first of two fumble recoveries of the game.

Luke had three carries for 24 yards in the ensuing drive but the Dorados were unable to score after driving to the Casa Grande 5-yard line with the possession ending on a failed pass attempt on fourth down.

“We’re frustrated with our own performance,” Peace said. “That just builds hunger for our team. I’m excited about that. We want more and we know we want more.”

After Zazueta made his second fumble recovery at the Casa Grande 14-yard line, Luke bulldozed his way to a 12-yard gain and punched it in from 2 yards to cut the lead to 21-6 with 3:28 left.

Casa Grande recovered the onside kick and drove for the last-second touchdown with Angel Flores completing all three of his passes for 35 yards and Keeton rushing five times for 25 yards, including his 5-yard score.

Participating in the postgame celebration for Casa Grande was Arizona great Randy Robbins, a Casa Grande legend. He is the Cougars’ athletic director.

“It’s great for our kids for them to know they can do it,” Robbins said of the region title. “They’ve put in a lot of work, hard work. They’re seeing it finally paying off. It’s great to see them have some success.

“(Angel Flores) is special. This kid is special. We’re going to be looking for some good things from him down the road. We’ve got a shot with this team.”

Robbins then said a familiar comment that was often said by his former coach at Arizona, the late Larry Smith.

“If we just keep our nose to the grindstone and keep learning and improving each day, we’re going to be fine,” he said.

Peace welcomes the idea of potentially matching up again with Casa Grande in the postseason.

“They’re a well-coached team and they did a great job,” he said. “If we get another opportunity I’ll be excited about that without a doubt because our team’s hungry. That’s a special place to be after being 0-3 (to start the season). If we’re hungry in Week 9, we know we want to play more football.”


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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