Canyon del Oro came out of the gates raring to pull off an upset over rival Salpointe Catholic on Friday night in the last game of the regular season for both teams.
The Dorados started strong behind a physical defensive line and even got on the board first on a 10-yard touchdown with 6:31 left in the first quarter.
Players and coaches on the CDO sideline erupted as the scoreboard showed the Dorados ahead 7-0 and even showcased a WWE style championship belt on the sideline after big defensive plays.
However, that excitement didn’t last long.
Salpointe (9-1, 4-0) went on to score 28 unanswered points to close out the first half on the way to a 49-21 victory over the Dorados.
The Lancers may have finished the season with nine wins and as Class 4A Kino region champs but, according to head coach Dennis Bene, they are now 0-0 going into postseason play.
“Everybody is 0-0 and we’re excited to see where we are and glad to have a home (playoff) game,” Bene said. “We’ve worked really, really hard to try to secure a first-round home game and the slate is wiped clean for everybody.”
Senior quarterback Rodrigo Nieto put the Lancers on the board first on a twisting, taking a quarterback keeper 45 yards for a touchdown with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
Nieto finished the game with 75 passing yards, 82 rushing yards and two total touchdowns (one rushing and one passing) and his opening score served as the catalyst for Salpointe’s first-half run.
Aiding Nieto was junior running back Mario Padilla, who scored two of his three touchdowns in the second quarter to pad the Salpointe lead.
Padilla ended with 51 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and the three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) on the night.
After the game, Padilla said the team stayed focused throughout Friday’s game, even after being down early on.
“Our mindset was to keep on moving forward and we knew we had things to lose… we had to not worry about the score and play our type of football,” Padilla said. “And that’s what we did.”
Despite being down as many as 21 points, CDO (4-6, 2-3) fought back in the second half to score two touchdowns and keep the game from getting out of hand.
The first touchdown came from senior fullback James Garrett with 4:01 left in the third quarter and the second came from junior running back Jose Cruz with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Garrett’s touchdown went for eight yards, while Cruz scored on a 61-yard touchdown up the left sideline.
CDO senior running back Elijah Carey went down during the fourth quarter with a left ankle injury and did not return to the game.
Elijah Carey, brother of former CDO star and Arizona Wildcat Ka’Deem Carey, played the final home game of his high school career and was one of the lone bright spots for the Dorados during Friday’s game.
On the flip side, Salpointe ended the game with no major injuries as the team prepares for a home playoff game.
Falling in line with Bene’s thinking on taking the playoffs one game at a time, Padilla had an interesting take on how badly the Lancers want a state championship.
“I’ll tell you when we get there,” he said.