Canyon del Oro High school’s football team was undefeated before heading into last Friday’s clash against Salpointe Catholic. Then they faced Bijan Robinson.
The senior tailback from Salpointe Catholic tore the Dorados defense asunder, gaining 263 yards on 12 attempts, with four scores for the home side.
Robinson’s offensive exploits were more than enough to propel the still undefeated Lancers to a one-sided romp, winning their seventh straight game, 35-0.
Despite their efforts in the midtown showdown, CDO was unable to do much of anything offensively against a stout Salpointe defense. The Dorados were held to 95 yards Friday night, while the Lancers racked up 419 yards.
CDO head coach Dustin Peace found a silver lining in the way his team fought for 48 minutes on a night when they could have packed it in, citing the Dorados’ secondary forcing three interceptions.
“When adversity hits and we go 7-0, you’ve been pretty successful, so how will you respond when things get tough?” Peace said. “Where we take it from here when we leave this weekend and we stick together and we come in and learn on Monday, that’ll be critical as our team rebounds from this opportunity.”
Two of Peace’s offensive leaders, senior Gavin Davis and junior Stevie Rocker, took Peace’s message to heart.
Davis called Friday’s loss as a learning opportunity, shining a light on what the team has to improve as playoffs approach.
“We knew No. 5 over there, Bijan Robinson, we knew what kind of player he was,” Davis said.
“But, we started off the game strong. We’ve just got to keep pushing throughout the whole game.”
Rocker, who finished the night with 6 yards on 14 carries, said he’s ready the one-sided loss as a lesson, knowing that the defenses he’ll face in the playoffs will mirror the swarming mass that the Lancers threw at the Dorados.
“I get to see what kind of caliber I need to be, where I need to be at,” Rocker said. “Nights like this show me where I need to be strength-wise, too, my vision and everything. It gets me a little bit to work on my technique and not just try and run the football.”
Peace said he takes solace in the fact that the Dorados and Lancers will likely not face each other again, with the latter slotted into the inaugural Open Division playoffs consisting of the top-eight teams across all six divisions.
“They're a hell of a football team—well coached,” Peace said. “I wish them all the success without a doubt.”
Peace is confident the Dorados will respond well to their first taste of adversity this season, with back-to-back games against Casa Grande schools to close out the season.
“I’m happy with the body language of our team throughout the game,” Peace said. “[Quarterback) Montana Neustadter took some hits late in the game and still made some plays for us,” he said. “It was just tough to get a yard, which was the struggle tonight.”
The Dorados’ return to the gridiron this Friday night to play a winless Vista Grande team in Oro Valley.
The key to beating the Spartans, according to Davis, is for the Dorados to avoid complacency on either side of the ball. The senior running back believes the team has to stay focused on the task ahead of them, with the Spartans being their next test.
“You don't want to fall into the trap of a game,” he said. “You know, when a team has nothing to lose, they obviously always come out and play hard. But we want to get back into the classroom. We want to see what we did. We want to build off this and we want to come back stronger.”
For Peace, Friday’s loss to the Lancers represents a momentary impediment that can be overcome with hard work.
He’s confident the Dorados are ready to take on the Spartans, moving forward and rectifying what went wrong in midtown Tucson against the Lancers.
“Our kids are doing the right things on and off the field, being smart,” Peace said. “There’s no crying after the game, we just need to learn from this one and get back to work.”