Marana remains unbeaten after outlasting determined Dorados

Phillip Steward is 10-3 in his two years as head coach at Marana (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


— CDO (2-1) made the trip from Oro Valley to Marana (3-0) without six of its starters, who did not play because of undisclosed disciplinary reasons, and the Dorados held up the best they could before succumbing 40-37 on Friday night.

“A lot of what happened this week was super unfair to the entire team,” CDO coach Dustin Peace said. “I’m proud of the way they held together this week and our coaches. I didn’t hold together too well but everybody else did. We’re going to move on day by day. Get everybody ready to play.”

Peace ended a interview saying, “Hey, one last thing, I want to tell my guys that I love them and I miss them … and I love them.”

— Marana senior QB Elijah Joplin played his first full game since suffering a serious right eye injury during the summer playing a 7-on-7 game in which his orbital bone was broken. His opportunity to play this season was in jeopardy, but he has healed well and his vision has not hindered him.

He played on Friday night like he did last season when he became an Ed Doherty Award nominee. He completed 31 of 38 pass attempts for 317 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also scrambled for 23 yards on nine carries.

“The first couple of drives (in the opener against Mountain View), I was pretty nervous,” Joplin said of returning from the eye injury. “It was a scary to be back in there and kind of like get back into it, but once I got comfortable, I did my thing.”

— Joplin completed passes to seven different receivers, including Jason Wood, who had most of the snaps at quarterback in the wins over Mountain View and Buena as Joplin transistioned back from the injury to start the season. Wood caught seven passes for 79 yards.

Wood and Joplin have combined for 1,098 yards passing while completing 76 of 102 attempts (phenomenal .745 percentage) with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Wood is 31 of 44 for 528 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and Joplin is 45 of 58 for 570 yards with five touchdowns and an interception.

Dezmen Roebuck, only a sophomore, led the Tigers with 10 catches for 104 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown reception. Jaelen Collins, a junior, finished with four catches for 61 yards.

Sam Brown, an Ed Doherty Award nominee last season, did not catch a pass on offense but he had a 60-yard Pick-6 that turned the tide of momentum from CDO after the Dorados built a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. He suffered a right shoulder injury early in the second quarter and did not return. He was unable to lift his right arm after the game.

“We hope it’s a little bit of soreness and I’ll be back next week,” Brown said. “The amount of young guys who came in … I went down and then we had our corner go in. He dislocated his shoulder and popped it back in. He thought he was going back in but he couldn’t get his arm up, too. To see the young guys perform like they did is amazing.”

Sophomores Moses Miller (six tackles) and Dermain Linen (three tackles) performed well in the defensive secondary.

— CDO took its 14-0 lead in close to the first four minutes of the game behind Tristen McClellan’s 83-yard touchdown pass to Chase Laux and a 5-yard TD run by Jose Alba after the Dorados recovered an onside kick.

McClellan, a junior making his first career varsity start, completed 8 of 14 pass attempts for 214 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Brown’s Pick-6 happened with 5:11 left in the first quarter during CDO’s next possession after Marana was forced to punt.

— Marana cut the lead to 14-9 with 2:51 left in the quarter on a safety as a result of a blocked punt by Lee-Vi Nez through the end zone after the snap by CDO went over the punter’s head into the end zone.

The Tigers drove the ball the CDO 6 on the ensuing possession but Ryan Madsen recovered a fumble to thwart the drive.

CDO then had three big offensive plays culminating with Kendric Astacio‘s 44-yard touchdown run with 9:48 left in the half that put the Dorados ahead 21-9. Alba preceded that with a 33-yard run and McClellan completed a 20-yard pass to Vijay King.

Alba finished with 151 yards on 22 carries and Astacio rushed for 86 yards on 10 carries.

11. MARANA (5-5)

Head coach: Phillip Steward
Tigers compete in the 5A Southern. Bold are playoff games. Playoff games at 7 p.m.
8/25at SalpointeL1435
9/1at TucsonW437
9/8at HigleyL2429
9/15at Mountain ViewL3542
9/22Canyon del OroL2149
9/29at BuenaW550
10/6at SunnysideL617
10/20Desert ViewW498
10/27at Casa GrandeW429
11/9at ALA-Gilbert North

— Marana scored three touchdowns in the last 10 minutes of the half to take a 28-21 halftime lead.

Following Joplin’s two completions for 40 yards, Matt Jensen scored on a 19-yard touchdown run to cut the CDO lead to 21-15 with 8:43 left in the half.

After CDO was forced to punt, Marana drove 91 yards on 14 plays ending with Jensen’s 5-yard touchdown run with 51.6 seconds left.

Collins then picked off a pass that led to Joplin’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Roebuck with 12.1 seconds left in the half.

— CDO regained the lead 29-28 with 4:25 left in the third quarter after an 83-yard, 12-play drive engineered by McClellan. He completed a 15-yard pass and Alba rushed six times for 44 yards in the drive. Astacio capped it with a 7-yard scoring run.

— The Dorados’ next possession was a turning point in the game with Peace deciding to go for first down on a fourth-down attempt with three yards to go at their own 47. Alba was stopped just short of the first down and Marana took over at the CDO 49 with 10:26 left.

Eight plays later, Joplin completed a 5-yard pass to Wood with 7:33 remaining and Marana took a 34-29 lead.

“We weren’t stopping them well,” Peace reasoned for the fourth-down attempt. “We were able to do some things well like running the ball. We ran out of gas at the running back position. Those guys started cramping and getting tired.”

2. CANYON DEL ORO (13-0)

Head coach: Dustin Peace
Dorados compete in the 4A Kino. Bold are playoff games. Championship 12/1 starts at 4 p.m. at ASU.
9/1at Bradshaw MountainW427
9/8Desert ViewW5020
9/15at AmphiW410
9/22at MaranaW4921
10/6at Catalina FoothillsW5014
10/13Mica MountainW1715
10/20at PuebloW467
11/3Walden GroveW219
11/9Poston ButteW4520
11/17AZ College PrepW (4OT)3327
11/24Mica MountainW237
12/1Yuma Catholic

— CDO answered quickly with McClellan’s 66-yard touchdown pass to Daylon Beck with 6:08 left. Ethan Krominga’s 2-point conversion run put the Dorados ahead 37-34.

Two runs for 41 yards by Jensen helped set up Jordan Jang’s 4-yard scoring run with 4:03 left to give Marana the 40-37 lead (the PAT was blocked).

Jensen finished with 80 yards on eight rushes and Jang rushed 11 times for 63 yards.

— The Dorados’ last possession ended at the Marana 42 after starting at their own 22. A 20-yard pass from McClelland to Astacio on a fourth-and-5 play at the Dorado 38 kept the drive alive. CDO couldn’t achieve a first down again, however, and Marana went into victory formation with 19 seconds left after a turnover of downs.

— CDO heads to Phoenix on Friday to play St. Mary’s (2-1) at Phoenix College. Marana will host 6A school Mesa Westwood (1-3) at home Friday.


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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