Can Canyon Del Oro be the powerhouse it’s grown accustom to being without the running talent of Ka’Deem Carey? Coaches and players preparing for the new season think so.

Carey is now in the high school history books as he prepares for his college career at the University of Arizona. Seniors on CDO’s 2011-12 squad say they are ready to prove they are still a top contender.

In his final year as a Dorado, Carey rushed for 1,754 yards on 198 carries.

Now, the tailback position will be filled by senior Jason Vartanian, who agrees CDO has a lot of skeptics.

“We have a chance to be pretty good if we follow assignments and execute plays,” Vartanian said. “We have to perfect our plays a little more, and come together on the field.”

With big shoes to fill, Vartanian says he has talked to Carey, and can take steps to fill a huge hole in the backfield.

Coach Dustin Peace said Vartanian has waited and learned over the last year. He adds now that Vartanian has the chance to carry the ball, he will have a big impact on offense.

The Dorados were state runners-up last season, finishing 13-1. In 2009, they were state champions, capping off a perfect 14-0 season.

“We consider last year to be a successful season even though we were not state champions,” said Peace. “So, our goal is to maintain the level of success we have had over the last four years. We are very talented in our skilled positions.”

Stepping behind center on offense will be Cooper Smith, who played backup quarterback and free safety last year.

“I think we look good,” said Smith. “A lot of teams don’t think we’ll be much without Ka’Deem, but I think we’ll be pretty good. For now, we’re just working to block out the pressure. We know we aren’t going to be able to rely solely on one position. We’re going to have to play as a team.”

Peace said Smith, “is one of the smartest and best leaders we have had at the quarterback position over the last few years.”

Smith will be throwing to senior wide receivers Josh Brown and Clint Cochrane.

Peace describes Brown as one of the most “dominant, skilled players in the city,” and Cochrane as the player with the “best hands” on the team.

Cochrane says the players feel a lot of pressure, not because of what critics or other teams are saying, but because they know they have to perform at the high level of standard required within the CDO program.

Some concerns for the Dorados, as they continue preparing for the Aug. 26 season opener against rival Ironwood Ridge, is the offensive line.

Peace describes a young group that must work hard to improve and learn from last season’s experiences.

Some new prospects will also give the team a boost heading into the new season.

Max Anae is coming to CDO from Utah. Anae, the son of new UA offensive line coach Robert Anae, will play linebacker and offensive guard.

Dillon Davidson transferred to CDO from Mountain View.

Davidson, who Peace describes as one of the fastest players on the team, will play corner and be a weapon in the running game on offense.

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