Kade Warner was given No. 81 to wear at Scottsdale Desert Mountain, the same number receiver Mark Andrews wore during a stellar career that ended in 2013 with an 11-man state football record for career catches at 207.
Warner was a freshman when Andrews was a senior, making big plays after catches on his way to the record book. Warner looked up to Andrews but never imagined he would be in the same conversation as him or Scottsdale Saguaro’s Christian Kirk, who caught 203 passes in four varsity seasons from 2011-14. Andrews now starts at Oklahoma and Kirk at Texas A&M.
Warner, the son of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, now has 225 career catches after making eight receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns Friday in a 49-42 victory against Horizon.
He already was the state record holder for 11-man football and now he is the Arizona Interscholastic Association leader for all football, surpassing the 8-man record for career catches — 221 by Paul Hatcher at Tucson Christian from 1982-85.
Warner, who did not have a varsity catch as a freshman, had 62 catches as a sophomore and 96 last season.
His career totals are 225 catches, 2,692 yards and 33 touchdowns.
(Former Scottsdale Prep receiver Matt Munsil isn’t in the AIA records, but he caught 273 passes in his four-year varsity career, the first three of which were in 8-man ball. He played his last season in 2013 in a lower-level 11-man division, catching 70 passes during a Small Schools Player of the Year season.)
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t think I’d have this kind of career,” Warner said. “I have to thank my quarterback, Andrew Nuessle, and my dad (the offensive coordinator), for allowing me to have this opportunity. To be mentioned with Mark Andrews and Christian Kirk, it is awesome and humbling.”
After an 0-6 start, Desert Mountain has won its last two games and is hoping to reach the postseason.
Warner, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, also is on the basketball and track teams at the school.
“If I don’t get catches, I want to block, do what I can to help us win,” he said. “We’ve had a tough schedule. I think we can make a run and get in the playoffs.”
He added weight, strength, speed and quickness since his 96-catch junior season, working with a personal speed coach in the offseason.
San Diego so far is the only four-year school to offer him an opportunity to play college football.
Contributing: USA TODAY High School Sports