On homecoming night at Canyon Del Oro High School, the Dorados’ senior football players gave the crowd something to cheer about, beating the Marana Tigers, 41-21.

Blake Martinez and Jason Vartanian each set career highs in rushing. But the game was far from a runaway win for the Dorados (6-3), who had to work hard the entire game in order to outlast the scrappy Tigers (0-9).

Martinez ran for 163 yards and four touchdowns. He also intercepted a pass, recorded a quarterback sack, and had multiple tackles for losses from his linebacker position.

As a result, if CDO wins its final game against Amphi this Friday, Martinez could be the favorite for Southern Arizona Player of the Year for 2011. A win could also possibly give the Dorados a first-round playoff game at home. 

“No. 5 (Martinez) is a beast,” said Marana quarterback Ben Honea. “He’s intimidating.”

Vartanian gained 193 yards rushing, despite being hurt going into last Friday’s action.

“I just wanted to run my hardest,” said Vartanian. “I was going to play.”

Overall, the Dorados had more than 450 yards rushing. Quarterback Cooper Smith had 62 yards on the ground, while Dillon Davidson added 59 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Davidson ran 11 yards on the

final play of the third quarter to give the Dorados a 28-21 lead. Up to that point, the teams were playing neck and neck.

“We didn’t play the first three quarters the way we wanted to,” said CDO coach Dustin Peace. “They’re a much better team than their record.”

“They played us hard,” Vartanian said. “We have to practice harder for the playoffs.”

With the Tigers driving for the tying score, they fumbled the ball away near the CDO 35-yard line after a completed pass.

Two plays later, Martinez powered 55 yards to hit pay dirt and put CDO up 34-21. On the next series, Martinez sealed the win with an interception.

“We were getting worn down by Blake Martinez,” said Marana coach George Coronado. “He is big. We’re always outsized.”

One week after playing competitively against Amphi, and actually leading that game at halftime, the Tigers came out with enthusiasm and scored on their opening drive.

Honea ran 40 yards for a touchdown, and the Tigers led, 7-0. Honea ran for 124 yards on 28 carries.

“We did great in the first half,” Honea said. “We had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Peace knows that the Dorados’ last game is critical. Unlike the previous two seasons, as the Dorados rolled into the playoffs after unbeaten regular seasons, the Dorados have had to struggle through the 2011 season.

CDO is currently ranked ninth in the Division II rankings. The top 16 teams qualify for the playoffs. If CDO beats Amphi this Friday at 7 p.m., the team still might get to host a first-round playoff game.

“We have one more game,” Peace said. “It’s a rival school (Amphi). It’s going to be a good intra-district game.

“We have to execute. We have to step up.”

The Tigers will conclude their season at home against Catalina Foothills on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We have pride and dignity,” Coronado said. “We gained more respect tonight.”

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