For a half, Williams Field did not look like the No. 1 seed in Division III.
The offense moved the ball but sputtered and failed to score, while Tucson Canyon del Oro used its run-first offense to near perfection: Two drives, two touchdowns and a 13-0 lead at halftime for the eighth-seeded Dorados.
It wasn’t until CDO’s Jordan Closs-Lopez couldn’t find a receiver on fourth down with 2:30 left that Williams Field (11-1) escaped with a 29-26 win on Friday in the state quarterfinals.
“This was a very important game to us,” Black Hawks running back Jacob Anderson said. “We started off a little slow, we picked it up in the second half, we had to get our 'A-game' on and start going.”
Now, another meeting with Queen Creek awaits in the semifinals next week at Campo Verde. Williams Field won the first matchup, 42-17, over Queen Creek on Oct. 18.
In the quarterfinals on Friday, the Williams Field running game, led by Anderson’s 204 yards on the ground, was the key. Without its starting quarterback, Jeddediah Fagg who's out for the season with a broken collarbone, the Black Hawks haven’t asked backup Cole Patterson to throw too much and he stayed to the script.
Anderson put his team back in the game with a 70-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for Williams Field.
“Jacob’s been putting us on his back for quite a while,” Williams Field coach Steve Campbell said. “He’s run the heck out of the ball, especially down the stretch we’ve had the last six weeks.”
But Patterson still had to rally his team from a 20-7 deficit in the second half. He got help right after CDO (10-2) went back up by 13. Darius Williams took the ensuing kickoff at his 9, ran to his left, couldn’t find running room, cut back to the right and weaved through Dorados' defenders for a touchdown.
“It was more of a gut check, suck it up-type thing,” Campbell said of his team’s second-half rally. “They were doing what we thought they would do and were just beating us. We needed to step it up. The defense getting us a couple of stops so the offense could get on the field. We didn’t have that many opportunities in the first half.”
The Dorados ball control offense limited possessions for both teams. And, CDO had 26-21 lead in the fourth after Closs-Lopez hit J.J. Metz on a 53-yard strike with 9:56 remaining.
CDO squibbed the ensuing kickoff and Williams Field returned it to the 40. It took 14 plays and more than five minutes, as Anderson carried the ball seven times for 39 yards on the drive before Williams Field took the lead for good on Kyle Gill’s 7-yard run with 4:36 left.
Williams Field still had to stop CDO one last time. The Black Hawks got some help from a holding penalty and Cliff Weybrecht made a key stop on Dorado workhorse Max Smith on third-and-8. Smith had 105 yards on 22 carries, but the play left CDO with a fourth-and-3 at its 31. After two timeouts, the Dorados, who had only thrown the ball seven times all night, tried to convert on an out pattern but there were no receivers near when Closs-Lopez threw the ball and Williams Field ran the clock out.
“The little things,” CDO coach Dustin Peace said, noting a missed conversion in the first half. “Anytime you play a big game like this, the little things are what (determines) wins and losses.”
CDO only had two passes in the entire first half – one was by the holder on a fake field goal which was completed for a touchdown.
Aaron Mason scored from the 1 on the first play of fourth quarter to give Williams Field its first lead, 21-20, but CDO’s Closs-Lopez hit Metz on a 53-yard TD strike just two minutes later.
The Dorados set the tone with an impressive eight-minute, 95-yard drive in the first half, but had to punt the first two times they got the ball in the second half.
“They came out ready to play and we didn’t,” said Patterson. “We just came out in the second half with fire and intensity and that led us to victory.”
Williams Field 29, Canyon del Oro 26
First Downs: CDO 11, WF 12,
Rushing: CDO 37-190, WF 43-279,
Passing (comp.-att.-yards-TD-INT): CDO 6-8--143-1-0, WF 5-15-98-1-0
Fumbles-lost: CDO 2-0, WF 1-0
Penalties-yards: CDO 2-13, WF 9-60
CDO 6 7 7 6 -- 26
WF 0 0 14 15 -- 29
CDO - Closs-Lopez 7 run (kick failed)
CDO – Peterson 5 pass from Holloway (Koppy kick)
WF – Anderson 70 run (Ruiz kick)
CDO – Padilla 30 run (Koppy kick)
WF – Williams 91 kickoff return (Ruiz kick)
WF – Mason 2 run (Ruiz kick)
CDO – Metz 53 pass from Closs-Lopez (run failed)
WF – Gill 7 run (Forsgren pass from Patterson)