Thousands of teenagers are flocking to dew-stained practice fields this month in preparation for the 10-week-long gamut that is the high school football season.
These players will expend great amounts of energy over the coming weeks, knocking out two-a-day practices and embracing the arduous workload that creates championship-caliber teams.
Tucson Local Media will be running a series of previews, going over the preseason expectations and musings of coaches from schools across the northern Tucson region in the coming weeks, exposing readers to the plethora of pigskin talent in Southern Arizona.
Canyon Del Oro football ready to run come season kickoff
A sea of bright yellow bodies breeze through orchestrated drills on a soon-to-be blistering late summer morning in the shadows of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
These are the 2017 Canyon del Oro Dorados, who are hell-bent on finding their way back to the top of the Southern Arizona football mantle, under longtime Coach Dustin Peace.
The Dorados are fresh off a 6-5 season and a return to the state playoffs after missing the dance in 2015.
Peace, who guided the Dorados to a state championship in 2009 and a runner-up finish the year after, has an unquenchable desire to reclaim those days of yore.
The ninth-year coach believes this year’s team has the makeup to do just that, with do-it-all back Eli Carey, the younger brother of former CDO and University of Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, carrying the load as the team’s feature back.
Carey is coming off a 1,000-yard season, in which he averaged 100.7 rushing yards per game as a junior.
Joining him in the backfield will be fellow senior Zach Eidenshink, who showed glimpses of glory under center in limited action last year, throwing for a career-high 132 yards in the team’s 31-14 loss to Salpointe Catholic in October.
Peace believes the combo of Carey and Eidenshink have the camaraderie and poise to propel the team through the fall, barring injury.
“We’re going to have a mix of that running the ball down their throat type of offense, while hopefully being able to spread it through the air as well,” Peace said. “We’ve got to be a big play team, that’s got to be it for us. And just like every other coach is saying, we’ve got to keep our kids healthy.”
Peace’s point on health is especially poignant this year, as the Dorados will only have around 30 athletes on their varsity roster this fall, down from 40 a year ago.
That lack of depth will test the team, given the certainty of injury in a contact-laden game like football. That is why Peace and his coaching staff have hammered home the importance of playing sound football to his players, preaching proper tackling and blocking techniques.
They hope that such an impetus will help players come the latter weeks of the season, when injuries tend to mount.
Peace said he is excited to see what his team can do this fall, especially when Carey has the ball in his hands.
“[Eli] is faster than he was last year, and he’s going to have a breakout season,” Peace said. “We have to keep him healthy, but he’s by far one of the strongest dudes that I’ve ever coached-and that includes (former Stanford University linebacker) Blake Martinez and Ka’Deem.”
Peace is not shy about heaping praise on his players when deserved; saying Carey in his opinion is the best back in the city.
He is not afraid to get on a player that misses an assignment or that makes costly mistakes.
He is counting the hours until the Dorados kick off the 2017 season, against Sunrise Mountain at 7 p.m. on Aug. 25.
Peace loves how even-keeled his players are, and how he’s able to build such strong bonds with them over the course of a season.
“This is home for me,” Peace said. “And it comes down to two things: it comes down to the people-the other coaches that I get to spend time with and the type of kids that we get here at CDO. We get that hard-working kid that’s committed, that’s a good part of his team and that values his team most.”