Meet ThunderRidge’s D.J. Bordeaux, the 14-year-old quarterback with scholarship offers from CU, Penn State – The Denver Post

HIGHLANDS RANCH — D.J. Bordeaux quickly scanned the field, took two steps to his right, and let it rip.

ThunderRidge High coach Doug Nisenson could barely watch as his 14-year-old freshman quarterback attempted his latest magic act.

“I tensed up when D.J. threw it because my angle was right behind him,” Nisenson said. “When he threw it, I thought we were going to get picked in the end zone, but he threaded it between three defenders. He had to put everything he had on it and it had to be a perfect pass.”

It was. Grizzlies senior wide receiver Richard Okuno made a diving catch in the back of the end zone. It was one of three touchdown hookups between Bordeaux and Okuno in ThunderRidge’s 23-17 victory over Arapahoe in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

For the ninth-seeded Grizzlies (11-1) the reward was a quarterfinal game against mighty Cherry Creek (9-2) in a Saturday afternoon quarterfinal game at Stutler Bowl. The No. 1 Bruins, led by Brady Vodicka, also a freshman, are chasing their fourth consecutive state title.

Sitting down during lunchtime at ThunderRidge, Bordeaux, wearing glasses and talking softly, took on a Clark Kent persona as he talked about the Superman test awaiting him. Creek — with a snarling defense led by senior linebacker Blake Purchase, an Oregon commit, and coached by Colorado legend Dave Logan — is the state’s premier prep football program.

Asked if he’s intimidated, even just a tiny bit, Bordeaux replied, “No, not at all. I’m looking at this as another game and a chance to get a W and get us closer to our goal. We have to do it as a team to get there.”

Okuno chimed in, adding: “A lot of teams get blown out by Creek because they go in already scared. I don’t think that’s us.”

Bordeaux, who stands 6-foot-2, 185 pounds but with plenty of time to grow and muscle up, has already received scholarship offers from Colorado and Penn State. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin recently had a face-time call with Bordeaux. Franklin first saw Bordeaux’s promise at a summer football camp in Canton, Ohio, before Bordeaux entered the eighth grade.

“It was really exciting,” Bordeaux said of the recent call. “I was kind of at a loss for words and I was just happy to be talking to him. It was pretty memorable.”

Nisenson likes how the freshman has handled the hoopla.

“Imagine being faced-timed by a guy that is in the top 1% of all college coaches, at 14 years old,” Nisenson said. “But D.J. is a mellow, level-headed kid. He’s taking it all in stride… He’s an in-the-moment kid.”

Nisenson, who said Bordeaux has “an absolute cannon of an arm,” has witnessed the freshman make a 61-yard, off-balance throw during a game and 70-yard bombs at practice. But that’s not the only reason why he promoted Bordeaux as his starter just before the 5A playoffs began.

“What I have been so impressed with since he took over is just how quick he is making decisions,” Nisenson said. “He never puts his eyes on the rush but he can feel the pressure. That’s been huge. He moves, he steps up, he makes throws.”

Okuno, a 5-foot-8, 140-pound, lightning-quick slot receiver who has 43 receptions for 593 yards and nine scores, provided a snapshot of his QB’s in-game awareness.

“Versus Arapahoe, they dropped into man coverage and they ended up with a linebacker covering me,” Okuno said. “D.J. saw that immediately and I got free up the middle and it was an easy toss for him.”

And a 40-yard touchdown bomb for the Grizzlies.

In his six years as the head coach at ThunderRidge, Nisenson had never had a freshman quarterback, let alone a starter, on his varsity roster. Until this year. But the Grizzlies’ offense went stale toward the end of the season. So Nisenson replaced senior Cooper Kier with Bordeaux, who proceeded to complete 19 of 30 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns as ThunderRidge broke away from a 10-10 second-quarter tie with 28 unanswered points to beat Doherty, 38-10, in the first round.

“Honestly, it was the hardest coaching decision I have ever made — it was excruciating,” Nisenson said. “I never felt like Cooper was the problem, not at all. He did everything we asked and he led us through some huge moments this season.”

Indeed, Kier had thrown for 1,398 yards and 14 touchdowns as the starter.

“But we had a bad, seven-quarter stretch toward the end of the regular season and we needed a spark,” Nisenson continued. “D.J. has a different skill set and I felt like that would open things up for our offense…. Defenses would have to back up a little bit and that could get our running game going.”

The coach’s theory played out against Arapahoe last round when Cole Hanchett rushed for 130 yards.

Still, replacing a senior with a 14-year-old can mess with a team’s chemistry. Nisenson, after having several conversations with his seniors, likes how the team responded.

“There were some kids who maybe wondered if it was the best move, and they told me that,” Nisenson said. “But I think they trusted me with the decision.”

Okuno concurred.

“There are no bad feelings,” he said. “It was something that we needed to happen and I think the best thing about it was that everybody rallied behind D.J. There was no distrust.”

Bordeaux, who’s completed 46 of 73 passes for 690 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions, has been playing quarterback since he was 8. He understands that Saturday’s game against Creek presents a gargantuan test, but said he’s ready.

“Playing QB comes kind of naturally to me, so this is fun,” he said. “And I love slingin’ the rock.”

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