Canyon del Oro High School and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy are separated by 3,696 feet, give or take a few inches. Yet the two programs, for their proximity, never met on the gridiron prior to last Friday’s clash, which the visiting Dorados won 33-7.
The two schools, which have dominated their respective divisions at differing points in history, finally met face-to-face on a scorching-hot Friday. A sellout crowd wedged into Pusch Ridge’s quaint stadium, with dueling bands and ear-piercing energy.
It was the type of night high school football is made for, giving players that have known each other for years a chance to square off once and for all.
It’s the kind of game that generates interest in a town not known for its high school fervor, especially in an age where many intra-district rivalries have gone the way of the condor.
The Dorados’ one-sided victory meant a whole lot to longtime coach Dustin Peace, who gleefully told his team to buddy up and take a victory walk down Calle de Concordia to the vaunted school that opened in 1962.
Peace expressed optimism that Friday’s clash would be the first of many between the two teams, igniting a local rivalry that can replace their longstanding clash with Ironwood Ridge, which ended this year.
“We warmed up at home.” Peace said. “Who knows what they'll do next year but it's pretty much almost a home game. We're just right there, you could almost see our lights if they were on. There's no secret why they were runners up last year and they do things right.”
Players on both sides expressed hope that the rivalry, colloquially referred to as “The Battle at the Mountain,” will continue in the years to come.
Pusch Ridge senior quarterback Jonathan Stanton believes the two sides will meet again, which will be huge for players on both sides.
“You know, it's fun.” Stanton said. “We're out there. I have a good friend on the CDO side and I think that CDO, they played a pretty clean game, and I think it makes the game more fun, because we have those friends and we have those connections over there. There's not really any cheap play or late hits or anything like that. Obviously, we're each trying to beat each other but I think it's more of a friendly rivalry, so I hope it can continue.”
CDO sophomore running back Stevie Rocker, who earned 213 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Dorados on Friday, expressed a similar level of hope for the rivalry. Rocker is proud of the way the Dorados played in their inaugural game against the Lions, taking care of business against a solid football team.
“For me and for us to do work like that is huge, because [Pusch Ridge] has some big guys and plays really tough,” Rocker said. “But for us to work hard and come out like this against a team like that is really big for us as a team.”
Perhaps the most important part of the night was some 15 minutes or so after the game’s final whistle, when players from both sides milled around with each other, shooting the breeze.
The young men, donning their respective colors, put aside a night’s worth of bruising hits and on-field animosity, uniting over their shared passion for the game of football. It was the kind of night that reinforces all that makes games like football special, bringing a diverse crowd of people in a common space.
Peace summed up the importance of the community rivalry game in his postgame comments.
“A lot of these kids live in this same community so, kids know kids and when that happens it becomes a little more personal,” Peace said. “Not in a negative way; it's different when you get to play against those kind of kids.”