PHOENIX — Canyon del Oro’s football team was able to enjoy its ride back home on Friday night following a statement victory over the St. Mary’s Knights, downing them 24-8 at Phoenix College to advance to 3-1 on the season. For the Dorados, the win restored their self-confidence as they navigated a number of difficulties to still come out on top.
“I’m proud of our team,” said coach Dustin Peace, who is now 98-48 in his 14th season at CDO. “It was a big, gut effort. We don’t have a lot of bodies on the sidelines right now. On Tuesday, we practiced with 26 guys, so to come in here and get this win against a physical team in the Valley is huge for sure.”
After gathering the team on the field following the game, Peace asked the kids how they felt after the game. Praising their efforts on the field, he told them to enjoy every moment of it because they earned it. It was a far different message from the end of the game last week, where a fluke performance ultimately resulted in a 40-37 close loss for the Dorados at Marana.
“I knew how strong of a team we had, last week was just really uncharacteristic of a week for us defensively,” Peace said. “Every other game we’ve been [holding them to] under 10 points, and obviously Marana is a good team. But tonight, to come in and face the total opposite. … I’m proud of all of our guys who really stepped up.”
CDO got off to a strong start on the first drive of the game. Receiving the opening kickoff, the Dorados used a mix of passing and run plays to steadily progress the ball down the field. Capping off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass, junior quarterback Tristen McClelland was able to connect with junior Chance Cassel in the back of the end zone with 6:53 left in the first quarter. The kick was good, giving CDO the early 7-0 lead.
On St. Mary’s opening drive, it initially looked as if it was going to be able to score after eating away a majority of time remaining in the first quarter. The Dorados defense wasn’t allowing it, though, forcing a turnover on downs with 19 seconds left in the quarter.
From there, CDO once again was able to chop away at the chains, making it all the way to the end zone before ultimately being forced to settle for a field goal. With 6:55 left before the half, the Dorados took a 10-0 lead over the Knights.
Defense once again came out strong, forcing St. Mary’s to a quick three-and-out. With 5:20 left before the half, the Knights punted the ball away. On the following possession, CDO capitalized once again with McClelland finding senior Daylon Beck, who took it 70 yards for a touchdown. Following another successful PAT, the Dorados were leading the Knights 17-0 with 2:09 left before halftime.
On St. Mary’s following possession, the Knights were looking to move down the field and score before the half, but an interception from senior Ethan Krominga put a damper on St. Mary’s momentum and allowed the Dorados to hold the Knights scoreless before the half.
“We were focused defensively and I really think that was the difference,” Peace said. “We’ve been talking all week and everybody’s job was simple, but you had to be disciplined all night about it. Guys like him stepping up, and we know he’s that kind of a player, for him to have that moment and capitalize on that moment is awesome for him and something we count on.”
St. Mary’s received the opening kick coming out of the half but struggled to capitalize on the opportunity. After another quick three and out, the Knights had to punt the ball away with less than two minutes off the clock in the second half.
It only took three snaps for CDO to get the ball into the end zone, with McClelland finding junior Ryan Madsen for a 39-yard touchdown. The kick was good, giving the Dorados a 24-0 lead with 8:33 left in the 3rd.
The following possession would finally be St. Mary’s one and only scoring drive of the game, as the Knights were finally able to find success on the ground. As they marched towards the end zone, the time remaining in the third quarter ticked off the clock, leaving them with just 12 minutes remaining to play.
On the first snap of the fourth quarter, St. Mary’s was able to get the ball across the line on a quarterback sneak. Electing to go for two, the Knights were able to convert, making it 24-8 with 11:55 remaining. It would be the final scoring drive of the game, as a number of turnovers resulted in the teams handing the ball back and forth to each other until time ran out.
NO. 2 CDO (8-2, 4-1)Dorados compete in the 4A Kino. *Region game. +Game at Phoenix College. Games at 7 p.m.
|9/2||Walden Grove||W, 28-7||1-0||0-0|
|9/16||Desert View||W, 38-7||2-0||0-0|
|9/23||@ Marana||L, 40-37||2-1||0-0|
|9/30||@ St. Mary's+||W, 24-8||3-1||0-0|
|10/7||Catalina Foothills||W, 49-6||4-1||0-0|
|10/14||@ Douglas*||W, 49-6||5-1||1-0|
|10/28||@ Vista Grande*||W, 56-13||7-1||3-0|
|11/10||@ Mica Mountain*||L, 26-7||8-2||4-1|
Overall, it was a lights-out type of night for the Dorado defense. Putting an immense amount of pressure on the quarterback, St. Mary’s was only able to pick up a total of 37 passing yards, with their quarterback completing seven of his 20 pass attempts. They also had three interceptions on the night. Giving up a little more on the ground, the Dorado defense still only allowed the Knights to pick up approximately 163 yards rushing.
Next week, the Dorados will return home to face Catalina Foothills (2-2) as they look to advance to 4-1 on the season.
“They’re right next to each other so it’s a good rivalry game,” Peace said. “They played us tough last year, so we’ll just get better.”