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Diamante Burton helps Canyon Springs clinch Northeast League’s top seed

It doesn’t matter if Canyon Springs standout Diamante Burton is playing quarterback or tailback.

He’s dangerous at either position.

Burton, who started at quarterback in the Pioneers’ first seven games of the season, returned to his natural tailback position Friday and ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries to lead the Pioneers in a 42-0 rout of Eldorado.

Burton also threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Haulcy late in the third quarter.

“It was great to be able to run back behind my linemen,” Burton said. “My linemen did an outstanding job today. From playing the quarterback position, I was able to drop back and see more holes, so it gave me a better visual when I went back to running back.”

The Pioneers (7-1, 3-0 Northeast League) clinched the league’s No. 1 seed for the postseason and can lock up the outright title with a win over Rancho on Thursday. If Canyon Springs can defeat the winless Rams, the Pioneers will claim their first outright league title since 2014 and their fourth league championship in school history.

“It’s a complete blessing,” Canyon Springs coach Gus McNair. “I’m truly thankful that we had this opportunity to clinch it tonight. These guys worked hard, and they deserve it.”

The Pioneers didn’t lose a step with Dexter Hammond out as Burton led his team to a 6-1 start to the season and put them in position to clinch a league title.

“Diamante finally got to play his original position,” McNair said. “He was happy about that as well. He was originally our starting tailback, and Dexter was our starting quarterback. Dexter went down in a practice and got hurt, and Diamante stepped in and he’s been successful ever since.”

Hammond returned to the starting lineup for Canyon Springs and completed 7 of 12 passes for 159 yards. Jayvion Pugh and Jah’quire Powell-Hunt also scored rushing touchdowns for the Pioneers, who jumped out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead.

“We just wanted to start fast and get our offense going and put up some points,” McNair said. “We tried to get our rhythm going tonight at quarterback, which was one of our main things we were trying to do tonight. (Dexter) was able to do that and facilitate the offense the way we needed him to.

“We’re starting to click, and we’re starting to peak with our offense. We just want to get that going as we head into the playoffs. That’s the main game.”

While Canyon Springs’ offense was running wild in the first half, the defense shut down the Sundevils, who did not get a first down until 42 seconds remained in the first half. For the game, Canyon Springs only allowed 56 yards of total offense to Eldorado.

Despite the dominance on both sides of the ball, the Pioneers killed their own drives and extended Eldorado drives with numerous personal-foul penalties as the game turned chippy late in the first half.

“That was a real disappointment,” McNair said. “Good teams don’t do that. … We have to know that. We have to understand that.”

Eldorado quarterback Emilio Rangel ran for 12 yards on five carries to lead the Sundevils (2-7, 2-2). Despite the loss, the Sundevils will be the Northeast League’s third seed when the playoffs start in two weeks.

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