What can Ka'Deem Carey do for an encore?
A season ago, the Canyon Del Oro junior rushed for 2,738 yards, averaged over 12 yards a carry, scored 45 touchdowns, and helped lead the Dorados to an unbeaten season and a state championship.
This season, Carey doesn't think another state title in football is unrealistic, despite the loss of key seniors like Jared Tevis, Josh Robbins and quarterback Mike Lewis.
Now that he's a senior, last year's Southern Arizona Player of the Year, already committed to playing football at the University of Arizona, knows the expectations will be high. The Dorados open the 2010 season Aug. 27 at cross-town rival Ironwood Ridge.
Carey has his own expectations, too.
"I want to be strong as a leader," Carey said. "Make the right decisions.
"I felt like coach (Dustin) Peace and I want the same thing. I just want to have a great year."
Carey admitted the graduates will be missed.
"Losing the seniors is going to be big," Carey said. "(Jared) Tevis came every play. Josh (Robbins) is going to UofA."
Jason McBrayer looks to be the starting quarterback as a senior.
"Me and Jason are really close. We grew up together. We've known each other since we were six years old." Carey hopes their personal chemistry will translate into notable team chemistry, similar to that of last year's Dorados.
Recently, the Dorados played some 7-on-7 in California. They lost 23-19 in the summer game, but it was promising.
"We came back and lost after trailing 18-0," Carey said. "We lost 23-19, but when we came back, the team chemistry came together."
After falling far behind, Peace had some words — "I do not lose."
"Everybody got the willpower to come back," Carey said. "Coach is very surprising. He has a lot of tricks. Whatever he does is going to be good."
On this year's roster, Carey is high on Jesse Caldwell, Eddie Smith and Bobby Henkel.
"You can't replace Josh and Tevis," Carey said. "But we're bigger and more physical. Blake Martinez is going to be big on defense."
Last year, Carey saw the prospects for a state title contender early on.
"I had a strong feeling," Carey said. "I think God had it set.
"Everyone on the field knew it. Three games into it. We slapped hands and said 'state. state. state.'
"I believed from the beginning, we had an awesome team," Carey said. "The chemistry with Josh (Robbins) and others."
Peace is a very strong coach. Carey had less than 1,000 yards in his sophomore season, but he also missed six games.
"We had the talent my sophomore season, but we had injuries, and we couldn't do it," Carey said. "When I didn't get many touches, (then assistant-coach) Peace would ask why I wasn't getting the ball more."
Perhaps the biggest scare for CDO during the title run was in its semi-final win over Cienega. Although the Dorados ended up winning 48-16, they actually trailed 3-0 at the half.
The game was held at Tucson High, and it was the Dorados' first playoff game away from home.
"I came out nervous," Carey said. "We weren't playing to our potential. Deep down, I knew we were the better team."
"A lot of guys were not used to the big stage. Playing away, and not used to playing on turf (didn't help). … Once we got used to it, we were OK. Tevis was big."
While Peace has been the head coach for one season, he's observed Carey's development while on staff, as an assistant as well.
"Ka'Deem's a phenomenal athlete," Peace said. "He's got a good personality that keeps things positive. He's been fun to coach."
After his phenomenal junior year, which made Carey one of the five finalists for National Player of the Year, there would seem to be no rush to choose a college for 2011.
"My mindset is to stay at Arizona," Carey said. "The program is strong right now. I'm seeing it grow."
"I think they're trying to do something big."
Carey has certainly been openly recruited by UofA.
"Coach (Mike Stoops) said I'm the guy he wants. I'm going to compete for a starting position at running back."
Robbins was also a factor in Carey's decision to stay home.
"Josh (Robbins) is staying in (Arizona). He strives for the best. Following him is a key to success."
Other important people in Ka'Deem's success are his father Jack and mother Tisha.
"Dad is very competitive. I got some fight from him."
"My mom ran track in New Jersey. My parents don't like to lose."
Carey also extends his competitive instincts into another sport, basketball.
"I love playing basketball," Carey said. "Our basketball team is going to be strong this year."
Last year, the Dorados were 10-14.
"I'm looking to win football and basketball championships."
"We have a bunch of seniors like myself, Josh Lewis, and (shooting guard) Jason McBrayer. He's going to be a leader on the football field and the basketball court."
After a highlight-reel junior season, Carey is looking to make more highlights in his senior year.
"Whatever sport I play, I'm not just out there to play. I'm going to win."
Carey appreciates the uniqueness of playing at a school known for multiple state championships.
"CDO is a good school," Carey said. "Kenzie Fowler has the rings.
"One sport shows the rings to the (players) in other sports, then that sport's (players) want to win one."