For about 6-1/2 minutes of football Friday night, the Prescott Badgers looked like they might have Canyon Del Oro’s number, taking a 7-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the one number they should have worried about was the one on senior CDO running back Griffin Ronstadt’s jersey.
Number 27 tied the game for the Dorados on an 11-yard touchdown, capping an eight-play drive in which he carried seven times for 58 yards. Ronstadt never stopped, leading the Dorados to a 54-21 win in the first round of 4A-I state playoff action. The Dorados, now 10-1, face Paradise Valley this Friday.
“Griffin Ronstadt is just an amazing athlete,” said CDO head coach Pat Nugent. “He made some unbelievable runs for us out there.”
If churning up more than half a football field on one series seems impressive, Ronstadt’s final tally of 155 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries (nearly seven yards per touch), and 38 yards receiving was simply another indicator of the game’s overall tone. The Dorados were able to run and throw on the Prescott defense seemingly at will.
Despite the absence of talented sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey, the CDO ground game found a way to stay multi-dimensional. Sophomore Eddie Smith carried seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Smith was one of the four Dorados who scored a rushing touchdown. Ronstadt, Smith, sophomore running back Bobby Henkel and junior backup QB Mike Lewis all reached the end zone on Friday.
Four more caught a scoring pass from QB Doug Steele. Ronstadt, along with wideout seniors Ryan Retz, Paul Carter and Justin Kitchen, all grabbed touchdown passes in their final home game.
Retz, in particular, was crucial to Steele’s air attack, finishing the game with four catches for 96 yards, with the touchdown coming on a diving shoestring catch in the back of the end zone with 1:31 left in the third quarter to put CDO up 41-14.
Steele averaged a touchdown pass once in every four tries, and finished the game averaging 25 yards per completion, with nine for 214 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dorados stifled Prescott’s top scoring threat, running back Brian Scates, limiting the senior to 26 total yards, forcing three fumbles and picking off Badgers’ QB Josh Chavez once.
“Our defense has had a great season,” said Nugent. “(Tonight) we went to a lot of man coverage and pressed a little bit, and it seemed to work.”
Somewhat of an understatement, considering the overall inability of Prescott’s offense to get any sort of rhythm under way.
The play that defined the Badgers’ offensive night occurred with about six minutes left in the second quarter.
Backed into their own end zone by the swarming Dorados, the Prescott play-callers demonstrated just how much confidence they had in the offense’s ability by punting on third and 12, an unusual choice, but one that possibly prevented a safety.
CDO’s high-octane attack on both sides of the ball may have sapped the Badgers’ resolve, but the Dorados had no problems getting motivated for the game, according to Nugent.
“We are excited to be playing this time of year,” said Nugent. “Last year we were lucky to stay at home for most of the playoffs, but this year we’ll have to go on the road and get it done.”
Nugent and the Dorados will find out if they can in fact get it done at Paradise Valley, where the Trojans’ strong running game is led by junior running backs Tyree Parker and Jake Brown.
Paradise Valley advanced to the semifinals by beating Catalina Foothills, 21-7. The Dorados beat the Falcons earlier in the season, 14-0.