Saturday, December 5, 2009

Del Sol players savor experience of championship game

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 | 5:51 p.m.

So close, yet so far away.

There was Del Sol High senior linebacker Curt Pfeiffer, face down on the Sam Boyd Stadium turf with his arms outstretched after lunging for an interception.

The ball had fallen just inches short of Pfeiffer’s grip, but had the senior never hustled to corral the tipped ball, he would have never had the opportunity to make the play.

“Two inches from my hand,” Pfeiffer said, holding up two fingers. “Two inches.”

It was late in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s large-school state championship game and the Dragons were trailing Bishop Gorman by 38 points.

They would end up falling 62-21 to the Gaels. At the time, for all intents and purposes, the game was over.

But Del Sol’s heart kept beating to the same beat it had throughout their 12-2 season, a season where hard work and heart afforded them the opportunity to play in the pinnacle game of the season.

“We came out in the second half and played better,” Pfeiffer said. “The score says we didn’t play good enough, but we’re No. 1 in our eyes.”

The Sunrise Division champions willed their way through the playoffs, breezing by Valley and answering Liberty's challenges on their home field before finding themselves stuck in a halftime rut just a week ago.

Trailing Basic by 12 points with star running back and soon-to-be Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year Dezerick Reed hobbled with an injured ankle, the Dragons checked their halftime gut at the locker room door, defeating Basic 20-19 for the Sunrise title.

“That’s who we are,” Del Sol coach Preston Goroff said. “We might be overmatched or we might have our back against the wall, but we’re not going to quit.”

And so time ticked off of Saturday afternoon’s scoreboard at Sam Boyd Stadium, Bishop Gorman leading by 38 at halftime, 45 in the third quarter and 52 in the fourth, never leaving any doubt as to whose game it was.

All the while, the Del Sol heart kept beating.

An Ashton Cacho 42-yard touchdown here and an Evan Weinstock nine-yard touchdown there, both in the fourth quarter, made sure that the Dragons wouldn’t fade away easily.

“The guys in the locker room have nothing but heart,” senior safety Curt Pfeiffersaid. “They play their butts off every week and I’m just honored to have been able to play with them.”

As time dwindled off of the fourth quarter clock, there was Doph, flying through the Bishop Gorman line and laying a body-slam on Gaels rusher Jordan Welte.

“I was a little frustrated, so I tried to time the snap and hit him as hard as I could,” Doph said. “My last game here, finally on a nice field against that team, I had to.”

After the hit, Doph rose to his feet and waved his hands, urging the Dragons faithful to make noise. Most of his defensive teammates joined him and soon after that, the Del Sol crowd was on its feet.

It was a championship moment on the other side of a championship game.

“It was a great game,” Doph said. “Yeah, we lost, but it was amazing out there.”

Doph, whose timing was just a smidgen late on the hit, was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

So close, yet so far away.

Afterward, there was Goroff, the leader of the Dragons, with a runner-up plaque resting in his right hand, searching for words to describe the season.

The sunglasses he wore tried to hide the emotion.

He spoke proudly of his team, excitedly about the future, and with a hint of disappointment over the loss.

“We were overachievers,” Goroff said. “Nobody expected us to be anything this year, no playoffs or anything, and we won our division, conference and played in the state championship game.

“They’re a great group of kids and I’m going to miss them a lot.”

For the Del Sol Dragons, their 2009 season ended by being so close, yet so far away.

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