The wide receiver, a former dancer for the Seattle Storm, is one of the top recruits in the state this season. He and the Wildcats will try to defend their Class 2A state championship.
EVERETT — One look at Kyler Gordon and Archbishop Murphy football coach Jerry Jensen was puzzled.
“Gosh, I know this face from somewhere,” said Jensen of the then-freshman with a beaming smile and curly Afro. “It was from the (Storm) dance team. I can remember him as that little kid out there on the basketball court dancing.”
Now trendy for football players to take ballet, Gordon’s route to the sport literally started at the barre. And it’s his blend of agility and dynamism that Archbishop Murphy hopes will help the Wildcats defend its Class 2A state championship.
Cascade Conference at a glance
Five teams to watch
Cedar Park Christian: Hired coach Butch Goncharoff in January. Goncharoff led Bellevue to 11 Class 3A state championships before he was removed from his job after a recruiting investigation.
Archbishop Murphy: Defending the Class 2A state championship will be tough due to new pieces in key positions. Sophomore Victor Gabalis will debut under center.
King’s: Running back Caleb Perry is hard to replace, but the Knights have depth. Look for the defense to play a pivotal role in pursuit of the conference title.
Sultan: The Turks had a solid 2016 season, but Jim Kruckenberg, the conference coach of the year, left and Sultan graduated a hefty senior class. Jim Wright takes over a young, eager team.
South Whidbey: Winless in conference play the past two seasons, the Falcons are playing an independent schedule against Class 1A/2B schools this year.
Five players to watch
WR/CB, 5-11, 190, Sr., Archbishop Murphy
Outlook: Finding ways to get Gordon the ball is the only question regarding the four-star recruit. He has the speed and agility to find his way to the end zone.
RB/DB, 6-0, 225, Sr., Archbishop Murphy
Outlook: Hines totaled 100 tackles last season. The conference defensive MVP will keep the defense strong despite inexperience.
WR/FS 6-0, 155, Sr., King’s
Outlook: The Knights tweaked their defensive scheme last season and Shapiro has adapted quickly to lead the team. The all-leaguer will be expected to do the same this year.
QB/DB, 6-0, 175, Sr., Granite Falls
Outlook: Passed for 1,273 yards with nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. Look for him to be more settled into his role as a leader for the Tigers.
Kicker, 6-0, 180, Jr., Archbishop Murphy
Outlook: Younger brother of Ryan, who made all 59 of his PATs last year and booted field goals of 50 yards. The Wildcats hope Max duplicates the accuracy and power.
Gordon, a four-star recruit at cornerback, was introduced to dancing at age 5 by his mother, who performs for the Boot Boogie Babes dance team. He trained in every discipline except tap and competed nationally, regularly winning as a soloist and in group categories.
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Joining the Storm Dance Troupe in 2009 was a highlight. For five WNBA seasons, Gordon was electric as part of the performances during timeouts and appearances around the Seattle area.
“It was motivational,” Gordon said of being part of the Storm’s 2010 championship season. “Seeing them be successful, I wanted to be as successful as them and do big things.”
Gordon’s interest in dancing faded when a friend took him to a football practice at age 10. Once he learned you can’t hide the football under your jersey to slyly score touchdowns, Gordon was hooked.
“The balance, coordination and body-control I learned in dancing helps me so much,” Gordon said. “And the flexibility from my ballet skills; it helps with speed, too. It’s why I love playing wide receiver — just jumping up and getting the ball.”
Last season was a breakout year for Gordon. It was also overshadowed by forfeits from five of the six Cascade Conference opponents due to doubts regarding player safety. The Wildcats made international news with its NFL-sized roster, ultimately outscoring opponents 463-44.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior will begin his official visits by visiting Notre Dame this month. He’s received 10 scholarship offers and plans to announce his commitment at the end of the football season.
Gordon is the centerpiece to this season’s team, but AMHS has underclassmen at quarterback, on its line and an unproven kicker. The forfeits also had impact on the development of those players, according to Jensen.
Blowouts typically offer a time for backups to play. The Wildcats didn’t have many opportunities. Jensen also limited practices last season without games to play.
Gordon, who’s played receiver since his freshman season, is working to build chemistry with sophomore quarterback Victor Gabalis, who has the edge in replacing Connor Johnson under center. Gordon could also be asked to play running back along with senior Ben Hines. The latter was the league defensive MVP, averaging 11.1 tackles per game as a linebacker.
“We as coaches may have to get creative, but (Kyler) has to touch the ball,” Jensen said. “But I’ve stressed a lot over the summer that our kids that have played a lot of football have to be patient. As long as they’re patient, we have some good kids that are going to rise to the challenge.
“It’s easy to get frustrated when you’re used to playing football at such a high level. There have been times when you can see some of the frustration building, but kids like Kyler and Ben and (center) Martin Napeahi are able to see the big picture and know they need to bring (the underclassmen) along because they’re the key to the success.”
Archbishop Murphy’s conference opponents pledged to honor its games against the Wildcats this season. AMHS opens with a matchup against Garfield on Aug. 31. The Wildcat’s first six games are at home.
“Defending the championship is going to be as hard as we make it,” Gordon said. “It all depends on how much effort we put in. If we give 100 percent, it’s going to make it easier on ourselves. I’m looking forward to it.”