Looking back, it was a season nobody really expected. The Canyon Del Oro football team was supposed to be pretty good, certainly good enough to make a run at a berth in the Class 4A State playoffs. But then, quite unexpectedly, they started off the season with three straight losses.
They righted the ship with a couple one-score wins against Catalina Foothills and rival Ironwood Ridge. Then they started blowing teams out, winning games by the scores of 47-0 and 49-19. The winning moved them into the Top 16 in the AIA’s Power Point rankings and earned them a spot in the State Tournament, although they would have to go to Lake Havasu City.
The trip to Lake Havasu was an adventure in itself. The school couldn’t find a charter bus to transport the team across the state. They finally located one—as the story goes, it was the last one available in the entire state—and got to Lake Havasu in time to check into the hotel the night before the game. The trip didn’t bother the Dorados too much as they came away with a relatively easy 35-21 road victory.
The Dorados were able to control the pace of that game with their running attack, and that attack was led by sophomore Kayden Luke. Canyon Del Oro Coach Dusty Peace was effusive in his praise for Luke, who rushed for 193 yards on 26 carries. Luke, who tallied a significant part of his yardage after the initial contact, also scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
The unlikely win in Lake Havasu City allowed the Dorados to advance to the quarterfinals, where they met fifth-ranked Glendale. CDO started off strong, scoring 14 quick points in the first quarter, but the host team tied the game by halftime and then pulled away in the second half for a 38-27 win.
If anything, Luke was even more spectacular in the quarterfinal game than he had been in Lake Havasu. He carried the ball 20 times for 183 yards (an average of more than nine yards per carry) and scored three touchdowns.
After starting out 0-3, Canyon Del Oro went 7-2 the rest of the way. The past was briefly bleak, but the present is bright, and the future for Kayden Luke is almost blinding. He has a long way to go to challenge the school records set by former Dorado and University of Arizona star Ka’Deem Carey. (As a junior, Carey rushed for 2,738 yards on 224 carries—a stunning 12.2 yards per carry for the season—and scored 45 touchdowns.)
At 5’11” and 200 pounds, Luke is probably built more like the linebacker he plays on defense than a running back, but he excels at both. (He made First Team All-Conference as a running back.) Now that his football season is over, he will get into wrestling, followed by baseball in the spring.
Then he’ll be back running the ball down opponents’ throats next fall. And the fall after that…