The duality of agony and ecstasy was on full display on the gridiron of Canyon del Oro High School in Oro Valley on Friday night.
On one side of the Bermuda grass were the conquering Dorados of CDO, gallantly celebrating a hard-fought 33-21 victory over Catalina Foothills High School among their peers in the student section. On the other end was a somber circle of Falcons players and coaches, trying to pull a positive from a defeat that left them at 2-4 for the season.
The tone of the night was apparent in the cadence of each team’s coach, with each uttering a series of remarks that were either reassuring to the winners, or somber to the losing side.
For longtime CDO Coach Dustin Peace, the theme of the night was a sense of relief and pride, having defeated the Falcons for the first time since 2014. Peace’s team did just enough to escape homecoming night with the win, improving to 5-1 this season.
“We played a little bit sloppy in that game, I will say, but to still get out with a victory, a 12-point victory,” Peace said. “I’m excited to get five wins in a row, first game in the region and all that, unbelievable feeling as we move into the rest of the region here.”
For Falcons Coach Jeff Scurran, the night’s defeat was a dose of sour grapes for all involved, with the longtime coach telling his players to hold their heads high after a tough loss.
“We make critical mistakes at critical times,” Scurran said. “[CDO] have some good players, but this is one we probably should’ve had, but it doesn’t always go that way.”
The Dorados’ led from wire-to-wire, jumping out to a 6-0 lead after an opening drive that concluded with a short rushing touchdown by junior Cory Bonstrom.
CDO expanded its lead early in the second quarter when senior running back Diego Munguia slammed home a short running play for a score, giving the Dorados a commanding 13-0 lead.
Catalina Foothills was able to fight back, however, with Luke Mitchell scoring midway through the second quarter to get the Falcons on the board.
The Dorados were up for the challenge, however, with Pusch Ridge Christian Academy transfer Gavin Davis snagging a 53-yard reception from Zach Eidenschink on the next play from scrimmage, setting up a short passing touchdown a few players later from Eidenschink to sophomore receiver Jayden Bracy.
The Falcons got within five on their next drive, when senior quarterback Joaquin Holm ran a short QB sneak across the goal-line.
The Dorados didn’t waver, however, with Eidenschink hitting Devin Medina for a 74-yard touchdown pass, giving CDO a 26-14 halftime lead.
The two teams traded figurative blows in the third, with the Falcons scoring on an 11-yard touchdown from Holm to receiver Logan Sanders to get the visiting side within five after three quarters.
Peace’s side answered again, with Eidenschink connecting on his third and final touchdown pass of the night in the fourth quarter, finding sophomore tight end Justin Sheeley for a 20-yard touchdown. That score gave the Dorados a 33-21 lead with just under 3:30 remaining, a lead that the home side wouldn’t squander.
Both quarterbacks addressed their teams respective fate after the game, with Eidenschink praising his offensive line and receivers for their efforts, while Holm thanked his teammates for their nightlong effort.
“I’m just happy to see everyone else happy, man. I saw a lot of smiles today,” Eidenschink said. “As you know, that’s always good to see. Yeah, I’m just excited that my brothers are happy and that we’re ready to go.”
Holm, meanwhile, thanked his team for never quitting, despite trailing by multiple scores for most of the night.
“I’m just focusing on my family, my brothers,” Holm said. “I love all my teammates and I love everybody on our coaching staff and all of our fans and I just wanted to play my best for them.”
Both quarterbacks excelled on Friday, with Eidenschink throwing for a year-high 306 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while Holm had a passing and rushing score.
Eidenschink heaped praise on Munguia, who ran for 92 yards and a touchdown in a spot start because sophomore starter Stevie Rocker, who suffered an ankle injury in the team’s win over Prescott.
“It just kind of shows like, our captain, next man up,” Eidenschink said of the
Monterrey, Mexico native. “Honestly, it’s that next man up mentality. You know, we’ve been drilled that next man up mentality for four years now. All the seniors know. Everyone knows what they got to do. Everyone knows their role.”
The senior quarterback believes the Dorados sent a message to the rest of their region ahead of a two-game gauntlet that includes a road game against Sahuaro at 7 p.m. on Friday before returning home the following week to face an undefeated Salpointe Catholic squad.
“I think it shows our heart. I mean, we prepare like no other,” Eidenschink said. “So, it shows how much these kids care. These boys know that there’s not much time left playing football. So, we’re going to give it all every time, no matter what. No matter score, no matter what play, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to give it our all.”