For the second straight year, Canyon del Oro’s football Dorados showed no quit Friday, coming back and “giving ourselves a chance to win,” coach Pat Nugent said.
“But it wasn’t meant to be,” he added after a 13-7 loss to Scottsdale Chaparral in a 4A-1 state semifinal game. CDO, which played in the 4A-I state championship game a year ago, finished 11-2 on the season.
Chaparral’s Firebirds, 12-1 and headed to the state title contest against rival Scottsdale Saguaro, slowed CDO’s talented offense. The Dorados, used to relying heavily on the talented rushing duo of senior Griffin Ronstadt and sophomore Ka’Deem Carey, were stifled at the line of scrimmage.
“It was a tough game versus a very good team,” said Nugent. “We just had a difficult time moving the ball on a very big defensive line.”
Ronstadt, the Dorados’ all-time touchdown leader coming off a 200-yard game against Paradise Valley, struggled to find any running room, finishing the game with 21 yards rushing. Carey had slightly more success, gaining 67 yards on 10 carries.
CDO’s air attack was similarly ineffective, as senior quarterback Doug Steele threw nine times for 57 yards with an interception.
The Firebirds outgained CDO in total yardage, 356-151, scoring all their points in the first half.
The Dorado defense stiffened in the second half, giving the team a chance at a comeback late in the game.
“I was really happy about the effort of our defense in keeping us in the game all the way to the end,” said Nugent.
Steele scored the Dorados’ lone touchdown on a 4-yard run late in the fourth quarter. Then, thanks to the defense, the offense was able to drive to the Chaparral 20-yard line with 1:24 left. On the next play Steele was intercepted in the end zone, and the Firebirds ran out the clock.
For Nugent, the year has been a special one.
“It is always tough to see the seniors say goodbye - many of them had great careers,” said Nugent.
“Twenty-three wins in two years is pretty good.”
Although the Dorados will graduate, among others, touchdown champ Ronstadt, Steele, defensive stalwart Ryan Retz and precision kicker Nick Marshall, Nugent is already excited about the prospects for next season.
According to Nugent, “(we will) return many varsity starters,” among them Carey and talented wideout Josh Robbins.
The Dorados can also look forward to “an undefeated JV team coming up,” said Nugent. “The future is very bright.”