Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, Gavin Davis can easily be identified by his shoulder-length, jet black hair and the determined look in his eyes, visible even through his helmet visor. A relaxed teen off the football field, Davis is more akin to a one-man whirlwind clad in forest green and yellow when he dons his pads for Canyon del Oro High School.
The one-man tour de force has taken the region by storm this season as the Dorados’ go-to guy on the ground through three weeks of the regular season. That responsibility has crafted a year to remember thus far for the senior transfer from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, with 334 rushing yards and five touchdowns to his name.
Davis started the year as the team’s No. 2 back, behind prodigal junior Stevie Rocker, though he was called into action when Rocker suffered a high ankle sprain in a preseason scrimmage. The senior never missed a beat in his first start at running back, gashing an overmatched Flowing Wells defense to the tune of 135 yards and five touchdowns in 59-0 rout.
The Dorados found victory in week two against Prescott behind Davis’ 121 yards on a career-high 26 attempts. CDO needed everything the senior could muster, outlasting the Badgers in northern Arizona, 23-13, to move to 2-0 for the year.
Davis continued his hot start to the season against Apache Junction last Friday, carrying the ball 10 times for 78 yards in a 35-9 win. The Dorados are now off to their best start since the 2010 regular season.
Following last week’s performance against Prospectors, Davis is tasked with maintaining his early season success against his former high school, Pusch Ridge.
The Dorados will host the Lions, who are 3-0 this season, at 7 p.m. this Friday night.
Davis spoke highly of his former team, saying his decision to transfer stemmed from not fitting into coach Jerry Harris’ system anymore. The senior is thrilled to play in the newfound rivalry game after having to sit out last year’s inaugural contest because of the AIA’s transfer rules.
“I think it’s a game that a lot of us will talk about for years to come,” Davis said. “I’ll tell people about it, because it’s like 30 seconds across the street and it’s a natural rivalry game.”
Davis’ laidback staccato undercuts the generational talent he possesses, with one-of-a-kind speed and pass-catching ability out of the backfield.
Both Dorados coach Dustin Peace and Harris heaped praise on Davis for his ability to slow the game down and dominate his competition on the gridiron.
It’s that one of a kind talent that allowed Davis to thrive under Harris as a sophomore on the Lions’ 13-1 runner-up team in 2017.
Davis showed his mettle on that Lions’ squad, picking up 315 yards on the ground with four rushing touchdowns, while adding another four scores as a pass receiver.
He followed that up with a solid junior season, snagging six catches for 112 yards and a touchdown in six games.
Stats aside, Harris knows what Davis is capable of as an athlete, this week’s reunion a moment he won’t forget anytime soon.
“Once a kid is in my huddle, he’s always in my huddle,” Harris said. “I’m thrilled to see Gavin having a successful senior year, but I’m not surprised by it.”
Much of Davis’ early season success can be traced back to the five-week sabbatical he was forced to undertake a year ago. That hiatus allowed Davis, who was rehabbing a hamstring injury at the time, to gain greater perspective on the sport he loves.
“The whole time you’re sitting there and thinking, ‘Oh man, I wish I could be out there,’ because you really just want to fly around and do what makes you happy,” Davis said. “Because when you’re playing football it feels like nothing else matters. You’re just in the game, you’re with your friends, you’re with your brothers. That’s all that matters.”
Peace remembers how dumbfounded he was when Davis wound up on his roster, knowing how much talent the then-junior had at his disposal.
The longtime CDO coach called having Davis on the team a blessing, with the Pusch Ridge transfer serving as a vocal leader for the team, both in the huddle and on the field.
Peace is excited to see what Davis can do against his former team in a game that’s become one of the region’s marquee rivalry matchups.
“I’m just excited that he gets the opportunity to play in this one, and that the start to his senior season has been phenomenal,” Peace said. “We kind of blundered into getting him a little bit, but he’s been such a huge bright spot for us this year.”
Peace praised Davis’ ability to play multiple positions on both sides of the ball, including wide receiver and running back on offense, as well as cornerback and safety on defense.
Such flexibility allows Peace to plug the senior in wherever the team needs him, which allows the Dorados to do more with a smaller roster than in years past.
It’s that athleticism that caught Harris’ eye four years ago, putting Davis on the school’s varsity roster as a freshman.
Four years later, and Harris is still amazed at what the young man is able to accomplish on the field, and what he’s capable of down the stretch for the Dorados.
“While he’s been blessed with God-given talents and skills, he still works very hard to achieve his goals,” Harris said. “That will serve him well, both on and off the football field.”
Davis is thankful to have the support of his green-and-yellow-clad brethren each day in practice and on Friday nights. He’s happy to be where he is, playing the game he’s spent much of his life loving, and is far from ready to see the adventure end.
For now, Davis is happy to spend afternoons with his teammates, readying themselves for another Friday night battle under the lights.
“When I first showed up here, being new kid on the block you’re always unsure of how it’s going to be, what’s the change, what’s the social aspect of everything’s going to be,” he said. “And my team really just kind of welcomed me as one their own and as their own brother. That’s definitely something I’m very thankful for.”