Freshman’s making big strides for CDO
Griffin Ronstadt isn’t about to graciously step aside and surrender his starting position on the Canyon del Oro High School football team.
But even Ronstadt, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior running back who leads the Dorados in scoring and rushing heading into Saturday’s Class 4A Division I title game against Scottsdale Saguaro, admits he loves watching freshman Ka’Deem Carey carry the ball.
“Everyone is excited to see what this kid can do on the field,” Ronstadt said. “I even get excited when he touches the ball. I’m not about to give up my starting job, but I’m going to do everything I can to help him learn this offense because he can help us win a lot of games.”
Carey, the 15-year-old nephew of former Cholla High, University of Arizona and NFL star Vance Johnson, has managed to generate plenty of buzz in just five varsity games this season.
And why not? The early returns on Carey indicate he has the potential – health permitting – to become one of southern Arizona’s best in a long time.
“He’s got the best raw ability I’ve ever coached,” said CDO coach Pat Nugent, an 18-year high school coaching veteran. “Talent-wise, he’s got stuff I’ve never seen before. He’s got a chance to be one of the great ones around here I think.”
In just 20 carries on the varsity team since being called up from CDO’s freshman team for the Oct. 19 game against Cholla, Carey has 281 yards (14.6 yards per carry) and six rushing touchdowns.
The 5-10, 170-pound Carey also has two kick returns for 130 yards, including taking his first varsity return back 96 yards for a score Nov. 2 against Pueblo.
Two major obstacles stand between Carey and high school stardom: Ronstadt, and a better understanding of CDO’s offense.
It’s not that Ronstadt, who has rushed for 639 yards on 90 carries, isn’t helping Carey. He’s just a good talent himself.
“He’s a very good dude to me,” Carey said of Ronstadt. “He helps me out on the plays and stuff like that. He doesn’t really mind sharing the ball with me. We have a close relationship.”
Ronstadt said he’s more than happy to help Carey learn blocking assignments and the playbook because if both can play well in 2008, he believes they can become Arizona’s best tandem.
“Griffin is our guy,” Nugent said. “Between the two, the future for CDO’s backfield is pretty promising, but Griffin is our guy right now. He’s a guy that the stats don’t do him justice because we’ve had so many games where the starters just didn’t play all that much.”
Aside from the eye-popping stats and the lofty praise from coaches and teammates alike, the Carey hype machine also has some help from the Internet.
Forty-eight seconds into a YouTube football highlight clip under the search “Ka’Deem Carey,” the jaw-dropping athletic potential becomes apparent.
In a freshman football game against Cienega in October, Carey takes a pitch on a 2-point conversion. As a Cienega linebacker dives at his legs, Carey performs an acrobatic full frontal flip – completely clearing the would-be tackler – and lands on his feet in the end zone. “That one I’ll give him,” Nugent said. “When you make a move like that, you deserve a clip on the Internet, even if you are a freshman.”
Ronstadt and others on CDO’s varsity team have made sure to keep Carey’s ego in check.
“We joke around with him about it,” Ronstadt said of the YouTube clip. “It’s pretty hard for a freshman to get that much attention, but he’s that good.
“At the same time, he’s been pretty humble about it and handled it all pretty well.”
In Saturday’s title game at Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium, Nugent said Carey will have every opportunity to use the state’s biggest stage to announce his presence on the high school football scene. It’s a challenge Carey is excited to embrace. “That’s a big opportunity, especially for a freshman,” Carey said. “But I’m excited about what could happen. I’m excited to see what I do.”
4A-I TITLE GAME
No. 6 CDO (12-1) vs. No. 1 Scottsdale Saguaro (13-0)
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
TV: Cox 7 in Tucson
Online: Game updates Saturday at tucsoncitizen.com/TCVarsity