When Cam Tucker was in elementary school, he helped lead powerful Bayfield teams in the Young America Football League. He moved in the sixth grade, and ever since, he’s been a force for Palisade.
Tucker, a senior at Palisade High School, will lead the No. 10 Bulldogs (7-3) into Durango to face the No. 7 Demons (7-3) in the opening round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A State Football Playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday. When the 6-foot, 215-pound quarterback and safety looks across at the Demons, he will see many of the same faces he used to see on YAFL fields as a younger boy. His parents, Cindy and Shawn, will sit in a stadium full of former friends and neighbors.
“Growing up playing against these guys, I know a lot of the kids,” Tucker said Wednesday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “I grew up with them, and it’s special to play them one more time in high school.”
Palisade and Durango already met once this season back on Sept. 6. It was the second game of the year for the Demons and the first for the Bulldogs, who Tucker helped lead to an 11-2 record and a state semifinal appearance in 2018.
It was Palisade that got the better of Durango in the top-10 showdown earlier this season at DHS. He ran 30 times for 211 yards and two touchdowns before he was injured on a horse collar tackle late in the fourth quarter after a 31-yard run that set up a game-winning TD run for Gabe Harrison, his replacement after going out of the game.
Tucker also passed for 54 yards in that win and had five tackles.
The Demons knew stopping Tucker would be paramount to success but still couldn’t slow the bruising runner.
“We didn’t have the blueprint to stop him, that’s for sure,” DHS head coach David Vogt said.
It wasn’t the first time Tucker had led his team to a big win in Southwest Colorado. Growing up in Bayfield, he won several big YAFL games, including a fourth grade Super Bowl against Aztec in which he ran for a touchdown in a 12-0 win. His YAFL teams were coached by Eric Spady, Vaughn Morris, Justin Ross and Levi Mead. He was teammates with several of this year’s Bayfield seniors.
In 2018, Tucker helped lead Palisade to a 20-3 home win against the Demons in which he ran for 79 yards and one TD and also returned an interception for a score.
“I played against Cam all through YAFL,” DHS senior linebacker and running back Everett Howland said. “Since he moved to Palisade, it’s been great the last two years getting to play against him again. I’ve known him my whole life, and we hung out a lot as kids. Playing him, it’s friendly competition.
“This week, it’s going to be fun to play against each other again because we won’t ever get to again. Our whole team knows how good he is. It’s different when you’re hitting someone you know and are friends with, and you know it’s going to be a big collision with him because he’s a big guy, runs fast and is strong like a truck.”
Shawn Tucker was an assistant coach for Marshall Hahn for the Bayfield High School team. Cam’s older brother, Colt Walker, was the quarterback on the 2011 Bayfield High team that lost the state championship to Cañon City after Walker was injured on the Wolverines’ second drive of the game.
Cam’s older sister, Emily Tucker, also is a volleyball star. She now plays at Colorado Mesa University and is a sophomore for the Mavericks. She is now teammates with Bayfield alumnas Maddi Foutz and Jade Pascal.
“Moving up here, it’s been a good experience for our kids,” Shawn said. “They’ve gotten to work with different people and have been successful.”
The Tuckers stay in touch with their friends in Bayfield and followed along as the Wolverines won the 2017 state championship with several of Cam’s old YAFL teammates. Many from Bayfield have continued to cheer Tucker’s success in Palisade.
“Bayfield will always be family,” Tucker said. “Growing up there, it’s a very special town and close community. It’s special to know they still think of me and will be at the game this week. From age 3 until you graduate high school at Bayfield, you play sports. It was a special place to grow up.”