BROOMFIELD — Ryan Mazzola remembers it like it was yesterday.
The Broomfield senior was a sophomore when he made his first appearance for the Eagles against cross-town rival Legacy and, like most kids, was wondering how the whole varsity experience was going to go.
It's a tape he'd rewind over and over again if he were given the opportunity.
"Legacy ran the spread against us and I was out there against a receiver that was a lot bigger than me," Mazzola said of his first varsity series. "I was maintaining the outside and I shoved the play back in and with one arm only, I shove this guys and he goes flying.
"From there, my confidence just built, and built and built."
Mazzola didn't stop growing and now, heading into his final season for the Blue and White, he is a central figure on both sides of the ball for new coach Blair Hubbard.
"The biggest thing with (Mazzola), is his character and his leadership," said Hubbard, who comes to Broomfield after successful stints at both Faith Christian and Lutheran. "He is someone the guys have rallied around and they listen to him and he is someone on both side of the ball, whether at receiver or linebacker, that we are looking to have make some plays for us."
The chemistry with Hubbard and his new team has been overwhelmingly positive since he was hired last spring. Mazzola and the rest of the seniors knew the change was inevitable when longtime coach Gary Davies announced his retirement after 30 years with the club, and they have made the transition as seamless as possible.
"I really feel lucky to have this opportunity, and I really wish I could have gotten a few more years with Hub," said Mazzola, who had three interceptions last season. "I was nervous going into the off-season, but (Hubbard) has come in and it has been so smooth. It has given me a lot more confidence."
Mazzola is drawing interest from schools like Wyoming, Colorado School of Mines and several other DII schools for next year. He has an uncanny ability to find the ball from his middle linebacker position with his 6-foot-1, 210 pound frame and moves very well, something that should serve him well as a receiver.
Ultimately it will be his work on the defensive side of the ball that will attract the most attention, and if Mazzola — who like most players created a player profile for the college coaches to see — had his druthers he would don the Black and Gold of CU.
"I really don't want to sell myself short and I really believe in myself and it will take care of itself," he said. "The dream is to play 30 minutes down the road at CU-Boulder."
Mazzola and the rest of the Eagles will get started next Friday night at home against Legacy for the Broomfield Mayor's Cup. It's a game that the Lightning have captured each of the last three years and one that Hubbard already has circled on the schedule.
"Right now their focus is on Legacy and what is coming up next for them," Hubbard said. "I think one thing we were able to establish pretty quickly for them and the coaches was that championship mindset and everything that we want to do whether it is on the practice field or the weight room.
"The kids have bought in and embraced what we are trying to do."
COACH: Blair Hubbard (1st year).
LAST YEAR: 5-5 overall, 4-1 in Northern League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Garrett Betty (Sr.,, TE-LB, 6-3, 230); Tanner Garner (Jr., WR-DB, 5-11, 180); Toby Godwin (Sr., OL-DL, 6-4, 255); Kyle Heitman (Sr., DT, 5-9, 240); Trey Jaramillo (Jr., DB, 6-0, 175); Mason Keeler (Sr., QB-DB, 6-4, 230); Ryan Mazzola (Sr., WR-LB, 6-1, 210); Jaxon Pallone (Sr., OL-DL, 6-0, 265); Dylan Pokorny (Jr., DT, 6-, 220); Jalon Torres (Sr., RB-DB, 6-1, 195).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Michael DeCamillis (Jr., OL-DL, 6-1, 250); Mason Estes (Jr., DB, 6-0, 170); Adam Forbush (Jr., LB, 6-0, 200); Noah Jenson (Jr., LB, 6-1, 215).
DIVISION I/COLLEGE PROSPECTS : Mazzola, Pallone, Torres.
MUST-SEE GAME: Sept. 2 vs. Legacy, 7 p.m.
STRENGTHS: The Eagles return three interior defensive lineman and should be pretty stout on that side of the ball as a whole.
WEAKNESSES: Said Hubbard: "Time. To grasp the nuances of the new offense and defense." That learning curve shouldn't be too steep.
Sept. 2 — LEGACY, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at Wheat Ridge (Jefferson County Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Windsor, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — GREELEY CENTRAL, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — MONARCH, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Loveland* (Ray Patterson Field), 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — GREELEY WEST*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — NIWOT*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — at Grand Junction*, (Stocker Stadium), 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — BRIGHTON*, 7 p.m.
Note: Home games uppercase and at Elizabeth Kennedy Stadium. Asterisk indicates 4A Longs Peak League game.