2023 High School Football

CDO 10-0 and 4A Kino champs with win over Walden Grove on Senior Night

Canyon Del Oro and Walden Grove captains meet at center field prior to CDO’s 21-9 victory. (Lori Burkhart/AllSportsTucson.com)

Going into Friday nights’ 4A Kino matchup between host Canyon del Oro and Walden Grove — won by the Dorados 21-9 on their Senior Night — speculation swirled around CDO’s placement in the playoffs.

At game time, the Dorados were listed in the Open Division which would take them out of the 4A state playoffs and place them in a playoff bracket full of 6A teams.

With the playoff placement out of their hands, CDO was concentrating on one game, one win, the potential to have an undefeated season and the 4A Kino region championship on Senior Night.

To do that, the Dorados needed to get past a tough Corey Noble-coached Walden Grove team playing for higher seeding in the 4A state playoffs and hoping to be the team to give the Dorados their first loss.

Walden Grove and their defense were ready for the challenge.

The Red Wolves’ defense keyed in on the Dorados’ powerful running game and effectively shut down the running threat holding CDO to 140 rushing yards.

“Our defense played lights out,” Noble said. “Our defense did a great job, you know, you’re not going to completely shut down CDO’s run game, nobody has and that’s for a reason. (No.) 30 (Kayden Luke) is a hell of a player, a lot of really good players on the line there. they do it and they do it well and it’s not by accident.

“The defense did a phenomenal job. They got us stops at a number of times when we needed them. Forced them (CDO) into some long downs and they were up to the challenge tonight. They really played their butts off.”

Luke, the Dorados’ leading rusher, was held to 28 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown.

Not to be outdone, CDO’s defense showed up big and were able to disrupt Walden Groves’ high-powered pass offense led by Gabriel Smith, allowing just 190 passing yards and one touchdown.

Walden Grove’s only touchdown came with 1:41 left in the first half when Smith hit Skyler Allen in the end zone. Allen made a spectacular scooping grab to get the Red Wolves on the board.

The Red Wolves’ final points came when CDO was punting from the 5 yard line, the snap went over the punters head and through the end zone resulting in a safety.

With second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Walden Grove had a chance to cut the Dorados’ lead to five points, but a goalline stand by CDO’s defense gave the ball back to the Dorados.

Coach Dustin Peace on the Dorados defense and their goal line stand: “On the goal line, they had second and goal on the one. We were able to get three stops to keep them out of the end zone. Then we grind out a first down. That was the game-changing point. They get a touchdown there it’s a different ball game, they are within striking distance. That was a character defensive stand right there.”

CDO’s first touchdown came on a Luke run at the 7:25 mark in the first quarter.

After Evan Greer blocked a Red Wolves punt, CDO was in position to add to its lead, but the Red Wolves’ defense held CDO on fourth down.

In the second quarter, CDO quarterback Tristen McClelland connected with tight end Ryan Madsen over the middle for the second Dorado score.

CDO’s final score came on a McClelland-to-Austin Greer pass in the corner of the end zone. Greer laid out to pull the ball in for the score.

The Greer brothers, Austin, a senior, and Evan, a junior, played their last regular-season game together.

Austin on his catch from McClelland in the end zone: “It was a great ball. We had the right look. He put it where I need to get it and I got it. It was a good play.”

Evan on his blocked punt: “I was set up to make a big play. The punter, it was a bad snap and I just went out and put one hundred percent in it and made a big play.”

The win completed a perfect 10-0 season and secured the 4A Kino region championship for the Dorados.

The game over, the win in the books, CDO was still uncertain where they would be placed in the state playoff picture.

Peace talked about the uncertainty after the game.

“As you can see we are a 4A team.,” he said. “We played them (Walden Grove) tough, Mica Mountain was tough, and we are going to keep grinding out to make those plays. What happens tomorrow happens. I’m excited for what we are tonight, so I’m going to embrace that and what happens, happens.”

Saturday morning, with the Dorados team and coaching staff gathered in the cafeteria at Canyon del Oro. They anxiously awaited their fate as the state bracket and seeding show started.

When the 4A seeding was announced, the Dorados earned the No. 2 seed in 4A and were not placed in the Open.

Desert Mountain’s win over Notre Dame Prep in a 5A game most likely put Desert Mountain in the Open Division over CDO.

Relief and elation would best describe the Dorados’ reaction.

“Well, I think I added a few more gray hairs this week with all the anticipation,” Peace stated Saturday morning. “Just so happy for our kids and having the opportunity to get another home game. This has been several years in the making and now the opportunity is here.

“We are excited about the good teams we get to play. Playoff football will be exciting for Tucson this year. Good luck to all the teams still playing and congrats.”

Mica Mountain and Walden Grove also made the 4A playoffs.

Mica Mountain (9-1) is the No. 3 seed while Walden Grove (6-4) is the No. 11 seed.

The playoffs begin Thursday.

Game Extra:

What does Senior Night look like when you have 29 seniors? It looks like this:

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