This Thanksgiving, I am thankful, because I got to go home – the dark green sideline grass of Canyon Del Oro High School’s football field, for the first time in a long time.
I was born a Dorado.
I owe this, in large part, to my father, John Davis.
My father entered CDO as a freshman, and, judging from the faded pictures in his old yearbook, was pretty happy to have a brand new school in which to make his mark.
He also played Dorado football, and had many tales of the whole team working out with one Universal Gym, and running down local washes in the dead of summer, fairly low tech by today’s standards.
Another way the team got ready for that first season: hauling rocks from the open space on which the current football field now stands.
After graduating in 1968, he went to play football at Whitman College in Washington, the first from CDO to do so, and his perfectly ‘60s picture (mutton chop sideburns and all) graced the “Wall of Fame” in CDO’s basketball gym until just recently, when it was taken down for remodeling.
He returned to the field he built at the age of 25, this time as a defensive backs coach.
In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, while the Dorados were perennial playoff contenders, my dad was awarded many accolades, including Defensive Coach of the Year.
And so, when I was born, one of my first trips, so I’m told, was to that field, on the shoulders of my father. I grew up on the home team’s sideline, playing Nerf football with my friends right about where the players run onto the field.
I remember the coaches, shouting on the field. To me, they were the men who came to our house with their old trucks and helped the family move, for the mere price of what I assume was (ahem) bottled soda.
I remember practice, and through the fog of years, the players greeting me, shaggy ‘80s hair flying, and always, always, the Green and Gold. I knew the fight song before I knew how to read.
My father didn’t leave the field for 20 years, until the onset of multiple sclerosis forced him to walk, as best he could, from the grassy confines of what he’d known most of his life.
About five years later, I came to CDO, ready to try my hand at football, and not quite ready to explain why I couldn’t grow a prodigious moustache or beard like the one my dad had on the Wall of Fame.
My athletic endeavors were not nearly as successful, only two seasons of football before a knee injury and personal issues forced me from the field.
I still have echoes from those fleeting adolescent moments.
The smell of freshly cut grass still makes me think of conditioning drills, called “gassers,” the bane of my existence.
I still remember Coach Bailey’s deep, rumbling, “Linemen! To the hill!” If anyone ever actually spoke in capital letters, it was Coach Bailey.
That’s where I thought my Dorado football connection was severed. Upon graduation, I went to the University of Arizona, played some rugby, made some mistakes and dropped out, then made some good decisions and went back to get a journalism degree. That degree landed me an internship, and eventually a freelance job, with this paper.
And here I am, now having attended a handful of exciting Dorado games. When I look at that field, I see the decades rippling over each other, like when a leaf lands on still water.
Coach Nugent, those of us in the unique and loyal Dorado Nation owe you thanks. You have given the fans something to be caught up in, and you have done right by the tradition you inherited.
To the young men carrying the banner: enjoy the ride, you don’t know when it’ll be done, and although it will not define your lives unless you choose to let it, you are involved in something special.
There is nothing wrong with fighting tooth and nail to keep it going, it’ll be hard work to stop you.
Especially for some team from Scottsdale.