Three standout football recruits share their stories

Sawyer Racanelli from Hockinson, Yaro Duvalko from Skyview, and Caadyn Stephen from Camas have all made their choices

Sawyer Racanelli of Hockinson, Yaro Duvalko of Skyview, and Caadyn Stephen of Camas are among the top football recruits in the state. All three have made their college choices prior to the start of the 2019 high school season. Photos by Mike Schultz
Sawyer Racanelli of Hockinson, Yaro Duvalko of Skyview, and Caadyn Stephen of Camas are among the top football recruits in the state. All three have made their college choices prior to the start of the 2019 high school season. Photos by Mike Schultz

They are among the top recruits in the state, in the Pacific Northwest.

They represent three quality high school programs in Clark County. 

They all have different stories, but the same stories, too.

The recruitment process is fun. The recruitment process is stressful.

And for the most part, the recruitment process is over for Hockinson’s Sawyer Racanelli, Skykview’s Yaro Duvalko, and Camas’ Caadyn Stephen.

Well, technically, it is not over. They cannot sign until December, or perhaps they will wait until February of 2020. 

But when Stephen announced Wednesday night his intention to sign with the University of Southern California, all three of these recruits had made up their minds prior to the first kickoff of the 2019 high school football season. 

Racanelli won’t get to play this season. He tore a knee ligament in June. But he had already told the Washington Huskies he would sign with them, and the Huskies have told him that they are 100 percent behind him during his rehabilitation.

Duvalko, one of the top quarterback recruits in Washington, announced that he is going to sign with Utah State. 

These are their stories.

Sawyer Racanelli, Hockinson, and a University of Washington recruit

It was not a surprise that Racanelli picked Washington. It was, however, a bit of a stunner that he made his decision so soon in the process. He announced his intention in May, some 13 months before Hockinson’s Class of 2020 graduates.

Sawyer Racanelli of Hockinson will be headed to the University of Washington as a receiver. Photo by Mike Schultz
Sawyer Racanelli of Hockinson will be headed to the University of Washington as a receiver. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I didn’t want to play the whole recruiting game and give teams hope when I knew where I wanted to go,” Racanelli said. 

He said he relied on prayer. Plus he had made a promise to someone special.

A knee injury will force Hockinson’s Sawyer Racanelli to miss his senior season. He still expects to sign with the University of Washington later this school year. Photo by Mike Schultz
A knee injury will force Hockinson’s Sawyer Racanelli to miss his senior season. He still expects to sign with the University of Washington later this school year. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I told my grandpa before he died, ‘I’m going to play for the Huskies.’”

His talent — an elite receiver and linebacker — combined with his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame brought him a lot of attention. He received offers from UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, and Michigan, among others. 

Racanelli said he was impressed by every program he communicated with and/or visited. But he felt called to the Huskies.

“I can’t just prolong this and wait,” he said. “I wanted to be where I wanted to be.”

So on a Friday in May, one of the biggest names in the recruiting process, made his decision public via Twitter. 

“Why would I not want to play for a top-10 program in my backyard? I’m a family oriented person. Three hours away. My family is going to be able to watch me at any game,” Racanelli said.

The long-term goal is to play in the NFL, he said.

“Even if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be built for life, with all the tools I’ll need,” Racanelli said. “A degree from U-Dub looks really, really good. It has one of the best business programs in the country.”

As far as football, the plan is to play receiver. He prefers offense to defense anyway, but he remains open minded.

“I’m a weird 6-3, 205. I kind of have a linebacker build but I play receiver,” Racanelli said. “If I get up to UW and they say, ‘We need you to play linebacker,’ I’d be totally fine with that. But I’m going up there to play receiver.” 

Racanelli said, for the most part, he enjoyed the recruiting experience. He said he doesn’t travel much so he took advantage of his trips to Cal and UCLA, for example. 

“Being able to go through the recruiting process was like a kid in a candy store,” Racanelli said.

It was not always a great experience, though. Some coaches, Racanelli said, are too pushy. There is a constant demand for one’s time. It is flattering but also can be too much. 

Then it was time to tell other coaches he has picked Washington.

“I felt, not guilty, but I felt bad almost,” Racanelli said. “I told them, ‘I love your school. Wish nothing but the best, but I’m going to U-Dub.’” 

Most coaches understood and wished Racanelli the best, too. 

Yaro Duvalko, Skyview, and a Utah State recruit

He nearly quit football during his first season, back in the third grade. Then he asked to try quarterback.

Yaro Duvalko of Skyview said the recruiting process increased his confidence. When college coaches kept contacting him, he knew he was on the right path. He plans to sign with Utah State. Photo by Mike Schultz
Yaro Duvalko of Skyview said the recruiting process increased his confidence. When college coaches kept contacting him, he knew he was on the right path. He plans to sign with Utah State. Photo by Mike Schultz

Yaro Duvalko has been playing the position with a passion ever since.

“I expanded my whole mindset on the game. I was in a place I could lead,” Duvalko said. “Everything I do impacts the game. I like having the ball in my hands. I like being able to control the game. After that, it was game over.”

Football consumed him. The family moved from Portland to Vancouver, and now he is the second-year starter for the Skyview Storm.

And an unlikely college quarterback to be.

To be fair, he believed he could do this. But not everyone did. His parents have always supported him, but they did not comprehend what the game could do for their son.

“My parents had no clue about football. My mom didn’t know I could go to college for free,” Duvalko said. 

He noted that he was not criticizing his parents. They just did not know. His mother was born in Kiev and moved to America about 20 years ago. His father is Ukrainian, too, but born in Canada. American football was not exactly their expertise.

It is Yaro’s, though.

There are many recruiting sites, many rankings for high school football players hoping to play in college. Earlier this year, 247Sports had Duvalko as Washington’s top-ranked pro-style quarterback for the Class of 2020.  

“Not that the ranking makes the player, but it reassured me that there are a lot of people who are rooting for me, a lot of people who have my back, and I’ve done certain things that have separated me from the rest,” Duvalko said. “So I just have to keep motivated, keep what I’m doing, and keep pulling away from everybody else.”

His talent has led him to Utah State.

Utah State is not in a Power Five conference, but does have the Power Five mentality, Duvalko said.

“Everything I’ve seen from them, and from their coaching staff, and the way they play, it really convinced me they are are Power Five school,” Duvalko said.

Plus, it fit academically. Duvalko wants to study human movement science on his way to becoming a chiropractor. 

“I was sold on the staff, the facilities, and the 40-year plan I’ll have,” Duvalko said. “My career choice is perfect.”

Duvalko said he had a pretty good idea where he was going, but he also made sure his parents were involved. His mom and dad talked to various coaches at Utah State. Then in June, Yaro made the call to say ‘yes’ to the offer.

The best part of the recruiting process, Duvalko said with a laugh, was when it ended. It was chaotic.

He did appreciate it, though. 

“Throughout my life, not many people told me I was going to go too far. There weren’t many people saying, ‘Yaro is going to make it … to college.’ I had to really push myself,” Duvalko said. 

Then he started getting invitations to college football games, to visit with the teams.

“When those coaches were reaching out, that kind of convinced me, ‘Hey, I’ve got it.’ It reassures you.”

The toughest part for him was the scheduling. It seemed like every weekend was booked. 

In the end, it was worth it. 

Duvalko made the call to Utah State coach Gary Andersen in June to tell him the Aggies were his choice.

“It was such a relief. It was a feeling of the stars aligning,” Duvalko said. 

Caadyn Stephen, Camas, and a Southern Cal recruit

Caadyn Stephen lets people in on a little secret: He wanted nothing to do with football.

“My dad forced me to play my freshman year. I didn’t want to play it,” Stephen said. “He said, ‘You’re big, I’m going to put you in this and see how you like it.’ I ended up loving it.”

Caadyn Stephen of Camas was “forced” to play football, and then he fell in love with the game. He announced he will sign with the University of Southern California. Photo by Mike Schultz
Caadyn Stephen of Camas was “forced” to play football, and then he fell in love with the game. He announced he will sign with the University of Southern California. Photo by Mike Schultz

That move changed Stephen’s life. 

Today, Caadyn Stephen is 6-foot-5 (with no shoes on) and 280 pounds, with a frame that suggests he could easily add 30 or 40 pounds of muscle in the coming years. A college offensive line coach has to love what he sees in Stephen’s potential.

Stephen moved from West Anchorage High School in Alaska to Camas last summer, and he instantly became one of the top recruits in this state.

But, it was in his first year of high school when he fell for the game and then was told he had an opportunity to be special.

His coach, Craig Dunn, had coached five players who had made it to the NFL. Dunn told Stephen that Stephen had more potential at that age than any of those players. 

“I used that as my drive,” Stephen said. “He told me, ‘You have a chance to play on Saturdays and most likely Sundays.”

College coaches told Caadyn Stephen that they love his quick feet for a lineman. Stephen said he got that from playing basketball. Photo by Mike Schultz
College coaches told Caadyn Stephen that they love his quick feet for a lineman. Stephen said he got that from playing basketball. Photo by Mike Schultz

A month after that conversation, Dunn passed away. Stephen said he has kept a text message from his coach, inspiring him to go after this new dream of his. 

On Wednesday, Stephen took one huge step toward playing on Saturdays. He announced his intention to sign with Southern California. 

Stephen has 12 official offers from Division-I programs, including seven Pac-12 schools. Other schools have shown interest, too. 

Stephen, though, was convinced USC was the place for him when he went on an official visit this past weekend. 

“Faith. Family. Football,” he said, when describing the program.

Faith is huge for Stephen. A Christian, he said he turns to God to ask for help when he is struggling. The recruiting process was tough at times. He’s had injuries. He went to a small, private school through the eight grade in Alaska before moving to a public school. A couple years later, he moved to another state. Those changes were difficult for Stephen.

“I call upon my faith to help me,” he said.

He said he wants a brotherhood with his college teammates, and he felt that at USC. He noted that even though he does not like hot weather, he had to take this opportunity to move to California. 

On the day of his decision, Stephen was wearing a shirt with the words: “Stay humble. Stay hungry.”

That is no problem for him, although he did acknowledge enjoying the recognition associated with the recruiting process.

“The attention,” Stephen said. “Kids dream of this attention and the chance of playing college ball.”

At the same time, the work must continue. He recalled a recent practice when four Pac-12 coaches were right behind him.

“I was just locked in,” Stephen said. “I forgot they were there.”

He also had to learn to balance recruiting and everyday life. He said there were times he would not get back to some coaches because the demands on his time were so overwhelming.

This week, he put the tough part of the process behind him.

2019 season begins

On Friday night, none of the recruiting will matter to Racanelli, Duvalko, or Stephen. Starting now, it is all about how their teams fare in the stadiums around Clark County.

Racanelli, with the injury, will be an unofficial coach with the Hockinson Hawks as they go for a third consecutive Class 2A state title.

Duvalko is hoping to quarterback the Storm to a league championship.

And Stephen, along with his teammates on the Camas offensive line, are looking to pave a path for a long playoff run. 

They can sign their letters of intent in December or next February. 

They can appreciate all that they went through to find their colleges.

Tonight, though, the focus returns, 100 percent, to high school football.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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