It was an emotional road loss for No. 12 Canyon del Oro in the 4A Quarterfinals on Friday night as the Dorados fell to the No. 4 Glendale Cardinals 38-27. When head coach Dustin Peace gathered the Dorados in the end zone for one final time this year, he reminded the young men about their lifelong bonds developed through football. For the eight seniors on this team, it was a monumental year filled with sacrifice and commitment.
“I thanked them for hanging on,” Peace said. “There’s only eight, but they’re leaders of this team. A lot of them sacrificed and moved positions to fit what we needed to fit. Our two predominant seniors were a tight end and a quarterback and they both play o-line now. We wouldn’t be the team we are without those kids making that sacrifice.”
After dropping the first three games out of the gate, the Dorados roared back to defy expectations and snag a spot in the playoffs. In the first round against Lake Havasu , Canyon del Oro was able to upset the No. 5 Knights on the road. It was the Dorados’ first playoff win in seven years, marking a successful step for the program. Unfortunately on Friday, the ride for this season finally came to a stop.
“There’s nothing more that you can hang your hat on besides the growth that a team has, and everything we went through throughout this year,” Peace said. “Starting the year out zero and three, you can lose a lot of people. You can lose a lot of parents, you can lose a lot of kids, you can lose a lot of coaches.”
In Friday’s game, it looked as if the Dorados were going to run the table early, as they were up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Glendale only had one possession in the first quarter, resulting in a quick three-and-out. However, the Cardinals hit their stride at the start of the second quarter to cause a disruption to the energy on the field. It started on a series at the Glendale 22-yard-line, where the Cardinals pounded the rock to move the ball the rest of the way up the field and score.
From there, the Glendale defense was able to feed off the power, opening up the next drive by sacking junior quarterback Cayden Dawes before recovering a fumble. The Cardinals took over at the Dorado 40-yard-line, where they again were able to move the ball into the end zone without attempting a pass. The kick was good, tying things up at 14 going into the half.
The Cardinals decided to switch things up coming out of the half following a nice kickoff return. On the first snap of the second half, Zecheria Owens was able to connect with Junior Dukulay for a 59-yard touchdown pass to set the tone for the second half. From there, Glendale went on to score its fourth unanswered touchdown with 6:45 left in the 3rd quarter. After a blocked extra point attempt on the first touchdown coming out of the half and a failed two point conversion attempt, the Cardinals were leading 26-14.
“I think we are a better team than them, but it was just an off game,” Kayden Luke said. “We played great, but we can’t get complacent like we did. We got complacent, and when you get complacent you get lazy. When you get lazy, things start going wrong.”
Another eight minutes would tick away from the clock before the Dorados were able to reach the endzone to cut the Cardinals’ lead. It came on an explosive 39-yard touchdown run from Luke, with a good extra point attempt from senior kicker Nikki Basye.
Glendale wasn’t giving up that easy, rolling up their sleeves to prepare for a brawl until the bell rang. The Cardinals answered with a two-yard touchdown run after an explosive 50-yard run from Keyon Walker, who had been nearly impossible for the Dorados to stop all night.
Following it up with an onside kick attempt, the Cardinals were able to successfully come down with the ball and send home the final blow with a touchdown coming on a quarterback keeper by Owens.
There was still a bit of time left, and Canyon del Oro was looking to utilize the clock as strategically as possible. The Dorados were able to add on one final touchdown of the night on a 30-yard run from Luke, but it was too little too late. Glendale was able to walk away with the win and advance to the semifinals, where they’ll face top-ranked Poston Butte next week.
“We just didn’t play clean, and that’s on me to get us to be more clean, but I’m proud of where we ended here,” Peace said.
It was a successful night for Dawes, who completed 11 of 16 passes for approximately 170 yards and no interceptions. The Dorados were just shy of 250 yards on the ground, most of those racked up by Luke. Defensively, the Dorados were burned by the run, where the Cardinals racked up more than 300 yards on the night.
While it’s an upsetting moment of defeat, there’s still much to be optimistic about for the Dorados. A majority of the players are sophomores and juniors this year, meaning they’ll have another nine months to continue growing together while working towards the goal in sight; Bringing the 4A State Championship title to Tucson in 2022.
“Half of our team is sophomores, the other half juniors,” Luke said. “We’ve all grown up together and everyone knows everyone on this team. We grew up playing Dolphins (Tucson Youth Football), and I think we’re going to come together and do big things.”
“I’m just proud of this team,” Peace said. “I’m proud of where they came from the beginning and it’s been fun. It’s funner to coach a team that you can develop than just a team that’s great right from the start, to be honest with you, because that’s what it’s about.”
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07