The Canyon del Oro Dorados fought through monsoon rain to notch a 21-14 victory in their season opener against the Eastmark Firebirds out of Mesa.
The Firebirds, led by first-year head coach Travis Dixon, moved up from 3A Central to 4A East Sky this season after winning the state championship in 3A last season.
CDO of the 4A Kino went 7-1 in region play and 8-2 overall last season, making it to the state semifinal game where they fell to Snowflake 16-13 in overtime.
As the 7:00 p.m. kickoff approached on Friday, the skies over Dorado field began to darken as a monsoon storm rolled into the area. By the middle of the first quarter, the skies opened up.
While the monsoon rain wasn’t the main story of the night, it did change the game by limiting the game plan.
“We weren’t able to throw the ball early, then we started throwing the ball late and we just didn’t get in a real groove offensively,” said CDO head coach Dustin Peace.
Being forced to run the ball wasn’t a hardship for the Dorados.
The back field duo of Kayden Luke and Joe Alba combined for 208 yards on 24 carries. Luke ended the night with 148 yards rushing including touchdown runs of 83 and 22 yards.
Luke’s 83-yard touchdown came courtesy of the Dorados’ offensive line opening up a huge hole on a 4th and 1 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
“If it wasn’t for those linemen blocking down and we took it straight to them and that’s the only reason I got so far down field. My lead blocker was right in front of me,” said Luke, a senior.
Alba added runs of 18, 9 and 16 yards to help the Dorados keep the ball moving.
Ballhawk defense by the Dorados resulted in eight Eastmark turnovers, including a fumble recovery in the second quarter that resulted in a Vi-Jay King touchdown.
The final score of the game came in the last seconds of the fourth quarter when Eastmark quarterback Mason Jensen connected on a corner pass in the end zone.
Peace, happy with the win against a tough Firebird team, offered his take from the season opener:
“There was just a little meat left on that bone. We just didn’t finish the job when we had the opportunities to do it. We have to find some ways to do that. As a coach, I’ve got to put ourselves in a better situation. We showed flashes of good things. They (Eastmark) are a good football team. They are a state champ for a reason. They fought us to the end. We’re 1-0 with a lot of experience and a lot of learning available in that game. On end of the game, on onside kicks, the whole thing we are going to learn so much from this game and we are eager to do so.”
Next up: The Dorados head to Bradshaw Mountain for their first road game of the year.
*The return of the scoreboard. CDO lost their scoreboard mid-season last year from a monsoon storm.
*The Dorados staff donned new shirts for the 2023 season.
*Dorados student section was engaged and weathered the monsoon rain. At halftime they showed their Dorado energy by singing Sweet Caroline.