It wasn’t the prettiest win head coach Dustin Peace has ever seen his Canyon Del Oro Dorados pull off, but he was still happy to see his team improve to 5-1 after defeating Catalina Foothills on Friday night.
In a game, which on both sides was plagued with penalties and turnovers, the Dorados did just enough on offense and more than enough on defense to scoop up the 19-12 victory in D-III competition.
CDO jumped out to an early lead less than three minutes in after recovering a fumble on the Falcons’ 19-yard line, from which quarterback Jordan Closs-Lopez connected with receiver Tristan Peterson to build a 7-0 advantage.
“That was huge, obviously,” said Peace about the fumble recovery. “It was a huge momentum play overall.”
After Catalina Foothills failed to make anything of their next possession, the Dorados struck again, driving from their own 38-yard line to the Falcons’ 19-yard line. From there, Max Smith broke free along the sideline for an 18-yard gain, and finished the job the next play on a 1-yard rushing score to put the Dorados up 13-0 after a missed point after touchdown attempt.
The Falcons posed a threat to the Dorados’ defense with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter when quarterback Rhett Rodriguez hit Elliot Buchanan for a big gain on a drive that brought Catalina Foothills to the CDO 22-yard line.
But as was the theme most of the night, the Dorados’ defense held strong, and on a third down and six, forced a 2-yard loss, causing the Falcons to settle for a 42-yard field goal on fourth down.
“While I would have liked to see a little more offense from our guys, our defense played a great game overall,” said Peace.
The game remained scoreless in the second quarter, but Closs-Lopez made sure the same wasn’t true in the third.
Out of the snap, the senior quarterback connected with the slanting receiver, Thomas Sawyer, who sped 39 yards to the end zone, making it 19-3.
“Those touchdown plays were big for me,” said Closs-Lopez. “I love going to my receivers and giving them a chance to make plays.”
The Falcons managed to find the end zone for the only time in the game a minute into the fourth quarter when Rodriguez found Buchanan for the 8-yard passing score, making it 19-9.
The Dorados were forced to punt their next possession, opening the door for the Falcons to drive within range to knock in a 25-yard field goal.
But with less than three minutes remaining, the Dorados prevented any further damage, collecting the 19-12 hard-fought win.
Peace says he is excited to see the turnaround from last season, in which the Dorados could only manage a 4-6 record.
“These kids hold their own destiny,” he said. “It was a slight wake-up call for us tonight, but we came out with the victory. I think the change has just come from leadership overall, and experience. We had a lot of guys return, a lot of playmakers return.”
This week, the Dorados take on Maricopa High School on Friday at home.