Heard in the Canyon Del Oro stands on Friday during the boys’ soccer team’s 13-0 victory over Cholla.
(Cholla Fan #1) — “Our team looks terrible, I mean look at how CDO passes, that’s incredible!”
(Cholla Fan #2) — “Stop being so negative all the time!”
(Cholla Fan #1) — “Well … I’m actually being positive. Because CDO plays beautifully, and I’m just saying it out loud.”
When a fan suspends allegiances and pauses to appreciate an opponent’s grasp of a game, it usually means one thing: the other team is pretty darn good.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association seems to agree. CDO’s Dorados are currently #1 statewide in the 4A-I division, boasting a 15-2 record with three regular season games left.
According to senior forward/midfielder Nick Marshall, the high ranking is “the last thing you want to get in your head.”
“We look at it from time to time, but especially in high school, in any sport, that can get in your head big time – you just want to focus on your team,” said Marshall.
Lack of focus has not been a problem for the Dorados. Marshall attributes the team’s attentiveness and ability to work together to about a decade of preparation.
“About seven of the players on this team have been together, in various club teams, since we were seven years old,” said Marshall. “We’ve always been just a really tight-knit unit.”
The team’s cohesiveness was brought home on Friday, when Marshall’s seven goals broke CDO’s single-game scoring record, and teammates seemed almost as excited as the shooter.
“He tore it up!” exclaimed senior goalkeeper / midfielder Eric Andrews.
Marshall is only one of the Dorados “tearing it up” this season.
Junior striker Donny Toia leads the 4A Sonoran division in assists with .71 per game and is second to Marshall in goals per game with 1.18. More offense comes from sophomore midfielder / halfback Ben Don and senior forward Jeff White, ranked fourth and fifth in goals per game. Underscoring the passing-oriented offense, Marshall, Toia, Andrews, senior defender Conner Muir and sophomore Caleb Christa rank #1-5 in assists.
The stingy Dorados defense has allowed 11 goals all season behind three senior goalkeepers – Andrews, Wes Baker, and Ryan Retz.
CDO travels to rival Catalina Foothills on Wednesday for a game that has little bearing on the playoffs or divisional race, but “is always huge, because we’ve known a lot of those guys for a long time,” according to Marshall.
Bragging rights aside, the Dorados are ready for state playoff redemption.
“State is a big thing for us, we were pretty disappointed last year losing in the semis,” said Marshall.
It is CDO’s plan that history will not repeat itself.
“Nine or 10 of our starters this year are seniors,” said Marshall. “This is our year to do it.”
If season schedules were mountains, Ironwood Ridge’s December and January would be Everest.
Beginning Dec. 18 with current 5A-II #1 Rincon and ending Jan. 9 with 5A-I #1 Salpointe Catholic, every team the Nighthawks faced was ranked in Arizona’s top five.
The result: a 3-1-1 start has become a 4-7-2 record. And the upcoming weeks are not much easier. Games with #4 Tucson High, #5 Mountain View, #6 Sunnyside and #9 Buena will test Ironwood Ridge’s ability to overcome adversity.
The Nighthawks will count heavily on juniors Kodiac Gamble and Nigel Heisse and sophomore Garrett Reidhead to stimulate an offense that has scored 19 goals on the season, and on junior goalkeeper Ben Ambrosio to stifle opponent’s scoring opportunities.
The last three years have been tough for the Marana Tigers. The Tigers have amassed four wins in three seasons, including their Dec. 5 victory over Rio Rico this year.
Despite difficulties on offense, forwards Nick Parker and Spencer Laulusa have shown some sparks for a 1-6-1 Tigers team that has scored five goals in eight games. The Marana defense is headed by goalkeeper Nate Prather, who has proven stingy at times, saving nine shots in a close Dec. 4 loss to rival Mountain View.
Home is where the heart, and the wins are. At least that is how the 2008/’09 Mountain Lions seem to feel. Mountain View is 5-0 at home this season. The road has been another type of challenge for the Mountain Lions, and one they have not had an answer for, going 0-4-1. The strength of Mountain View’s schedule has allowed them, despite some lopsided losses, to gain a #5 5A-II ranking. Nick Teppe, Michael Psund and Nick Peap have been at the helm of the Mountain Lions scoring drives, and goalkeeper Paul Kerr has, at times, been able to shut opposing shooters down.
Last season, Pusch Ridge went 13-6-1 and made it to the state playoffs, before a first-round loss ended their season. This season’s Lions look like they are on a similar course.
Pusch Ridge is 10-2 and currently perched atop the 2A Central division standings. The Lions’ offense has been prolific, outscoring opponents 49-12 on the season. Juniors Mitch Woody and Matt Horrigan, sophomore Geoff Pooley and senior captain Casey Vick have all been explosive shooting in the goal box. Vick, in particular, has been virtually unstoppable, scoring multiple goals on various occasions, including three in a Dec. 6 victory over Tanque Verde. Senior keeper Daniel Vavrusa has been the keystone of the Lions defensive efforts, leading Pusch Ridge to five shutouts so far.