CDO ends summer season of 7-on-7 passing tournaments with Mica Mountain title

CDO’s Tristen McClelland is preparing with the aspiration of leading the Dorados to the 4A state championship in December (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

CDO coach Dustin Peace gathered his team Thursday after it won the Mica Mountain Passing Tournament championship — the final 7-on-7 competition this summer — and told them to enjoy a brief time off from the field but be prepared for plenty of work starting in a couple of weeks.

Weight training and fitness workouts, including yoga, will continue within those two weeks.

The team’s camp in Flagstaff is about a month away and then preparations begin for the Aug. 25 opener at home against Mesa Eastmark, which won the 3A state title last season but was reclassified to 4A this year.

The Dorados know team and position meetings will take place over the next couple of weeks, some of them virtually.

Add to this players, especially quarterback Tristen McClelland and his running backs and receivers, taking it upon themselves to work out individually on the field to continue to work on their timing.

Is there really an off-season?

The passing tournaments have kept schools busy over the last month.

Football never stops.

It’s coach-speak, but it’s true — winning a championship has as much to do with what a team does during the off-season as what it does the last week preparing for the title game.

CDO defeated Mica Mountain 21-0 in Thursday’s championships, persevering through the quarterfinals against Desert View, semifinals against Tanque Verde and the championship over the Thunderbolts after starting 1-2 in pool play.

“You never want to start slow, that’s not in the game plan,” Peace said. “We may not be prepared. That may be my better preparation that I’ve got to do. To come out here and finish is good.

“For us, it’s about can we make big plays and can our defense get situated? Once pads come on and linemen are in front of you, some of the passing stuff changes drastically. For us to play good defense in these last few games, that was a kind of thing we took a highlight from.”

Peace added that 7-on-7 passing leagues help a coach learn more about the team’s top playmakers.

He already had an idea of the potency of seniors Tristen McClelland at quarterback and Chase Laux at receiver, teammates dating to their Tucson Youth Football days.

They punctuated a productive passing tournament season connecting on three touchdown passes in the victory over Mica Mountain.

Laux, also a standout defensive back, broke up a pass in the end zone.

ViJay King’s interception put the game out of reach, increasing CDO’s lead to 15-0 with less than 5 minutes left.

McClelland, Laux and King are three of 28 seniors on Peace’s roster this season. Most of them were on the field when CDO lost 16-13 in overtime at Snowflake in the 4A state semifinals last December.

“A lot of deep roots there, friendship and connectivity,” Peace said about McClelland and Laux and his other seniors. “Chase is explosive. Tristen’s only growing. The things he did last year when he got thrown into the fire for now, him understanding where our offense is and us trying to find out what he does well, that’s what the summer was all about.”

The passing tournaments also allowed junior backup Gavin Bower to work with McClelland, the receivers and CDO’s coaches to help prepare him.

McClelland, 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, became the starter midway through last season and completed 77 of 124 pass attempts for 1,502 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“Last year, he was thrown into the spotlight and he had to get acclimated to that,” Laux said. “This year, I think he’s really owning his role and taking the role as the leader of this team.”

McClelland said of Laux: “Chase has been leading this team since he stepped up as a sophomore. He was really good then and even last year, he was the team captain. He leads by example.”

With 28 seniors, including dynamic lineman Sa’Kylee Woodard and bulldozing running back Kayden Luke, Peace will have leaders at every position.

That bodes well for another deep championship run.

Peace pushes his philosophy on his players in order to reach the pinnacle, the work begins right after the season.

Coaches love to say, “Trust the process.”

Since December, through weight training, meetings, spring practices, workouts, more meetings, summer passing tournament season, until now, it has certainly been a process.

It only intensifies when the pads come on soon.

The kickoff against Eastmark is only 63 days away.


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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