When asked if the Canyon del Oro Dorados were suffering from a lack of identity in this first year of their school’s post-Ka’Deem Carey era, coach Dustin Peace replied he didn’t think it was much of an issue.
After all, the Dorados had won three games in a row. They entered their Salpointe tilt with a 3-2 record, despite an 0-2 start.
Unfortunately, questions resurfaced when the Dorados fell to the visiting Salpointe Catholic Lancers, 21-12. The loss drops CDO to 3-3.
“We got some things working,” Peace said. “We were close to making it a ball game.”
The Dorados trailed 7-6 after one quarter. The big play for CDO came when quarterback Cooper Smith hooked up with Josh Brown for a 78-yard touchdown pass. Brown finished with seven catches for 150 yards.
The Dorados had all the momentum on their side after a punt pinned the Lancers back on their own 10-yard line. But, the Lancers (5-1) showed why they are ranked as the ninth-best team in Arizona by Max Preps.
Jared Sires broke off an 11-run and followed it up with a 13-yard run to move the Lancers out to their own 39. Then, quarterback Andy Cota connected with Cameron Denson for a 61-yard touchdown pass, and a 14-6 lead for Salpointe.
“We knew we had to play a perfect game to win,” Peace said. He admitted the Dorados didn’t do that.
On their final possession of the first half, the Dorados went on an impressive drive. Mixing up passes and runs, Smith found Brown for a 33-yard gain down to the Lancers 34-yard line. But a few plays later, an interception ended the drive.
“If we don’t turn it over before halftime,” Peace said. “It’s a game.”
Getting the ball around mid-field, the Lancers had time. They drove it down to the Dorados 26-yard line with only about 30 ticks left in the half.
Cota ran up the gut for 10 yards, putting the Lancers in field goal range, but they didn’t settle for it. An 8-yard pass and a personal foul gave them the ball at the CDO 4-yard line. With nine seconds left, Cota went to Denson for a 4-yard touchdown and a 21-6 halftime lead.
The Lancers appeared ready to salt the game away on their first series of the second half. They began a march from their own 3-yard line, and held the ball for 17 plays taking it into CDO territory. Without a doubt, the Dorados were hurting.
“We had injuries to Blake Martinez, Josh Brown and Clint Cochrane,” Peace said. “But we didn’t tank it. I’m proud of how we played defense in the second half.”
CDO held Salpointe’s rushing star, Johnny Pena, under 100 yards, as he had 88 yards on 17 carries.
On the 18th play of the drive, the Dorados forced a fumble and recovered the ball at their own 25-yard line.
Blake Martinez, already committed to Stanford for 2012 and probably the team’s best overall player, had not been a factor in the first half.
That changed in the second half. Martinez recorded a sack on the 18-play drive. On offense, Martinez was held and pass interference was called, giving CDO a first down at the 16-yard line.
But the drive stalled, and on fourth down a pass went incomplete.
“It took us four games,” Martinez said. “Everybody’s getting banged up. My right hand was hurting me.”
The Dorados got the ball back late in the fourth and went on another march. This time, they reaped the rewards.
On a fourth-and-four, Smith completed a four-yard pass to Tommy Sawyer. Then, Salpointe was called for pass interference with Martinez again, which set up a first down at the 12-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Martinez took it to the one-yard line.
On the next play, Smith took it in. The kick failed and it was 21-12.
Smith completed 14 of 22 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Running back Jason Vartanian ran 15 times for 66 yards.
“We’ll recuperate,” Martinez said. “It’s four more games and then the playoffs.”
Peace was concerned after the loss.
“We need to get healthy,” he said. “We’ll have holes to fill next week.”
Thursday, the Dorados will travel to Catalina Foothills. Game time is at 7 p.m.