• League outlook: Regis Jesuit reached the semifinals last year and the Raiders remain the team to beat. Regis features one of the top defenders in the state in outside linebacker Jake Heimlicher, who recorded 22 sacks as a junior. Legacy and Bear Creek will be the biggest contenders to the Raiders crown, while Douglas County could be a team on the rise.
COACH: Wayne Voorhees (15th year, 90-60).
LAST YEAR: 8-3 overall, 4-1 Mt. Antero League (lost 37-7 to Grandview in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Lee Biersner (Jr., OL, 5-11, 270); Alec Lewis (Sr., QB, 6-0, 190); Ryan Lynch (Sr., WR, 6-3, 180); Marcus Libera (Sr., DT, 5-11, 272); Troy Mittelstedter (Sr., OL, 6-4, 288); Austin Mullins (Sr., DE, 6-2, 215); Ross Smith (Sr., WR, 6-4, 185); Brandon Wills (Sr., RB-LB, 5-10, 205).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Dylan Anderson (Sr., LB-DB, 5-8, 166); Aaron Baugh (Jr., C, 6-0, 255); Jacob Duran (So., DB, 5-8, 158); Landon Sneyd (Jr., WR-DB, 6-4, 172); AJ Tyler (So., RB, 5-9, 160); Owen Weber (Jr., WR, 6-4, 186).
DIVISION-1/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Lewis, Lynch (has an offer from Indiana State); Mittelstedter.
MUST-SEE GAMES: Sept. 1 vs. Broomfield and Oct. 6 vs. Regis Jesuit.
STRENGTHS: Returners on both sides of the ball. Returning QB, WR core and DB's.
WEAKNESSES: Experience across the lines.
OUTLOOK: One expects a certain level of consistency over the years from the Lightning and this year should be no different. Voorhees' balanced offense under the direction of Lewis — who has a plethora of big targets to throw the ball to — should have no problem scoring points. The defense held its own, bending, but not breaking when they needed to. Legacy will host Regis in early October in a game that could be for the league title.
• League outlook: With three teams ranked in top 10 to start the year, Mt. Cameron should be one of the toughest in the state. Fairview, Columbine and Mullen are threats to make deep postseason runs, and ThunderRidge was the first team out of the postseason under last season's RPI. The league also has one of the state's most dynamic players in Mullen's A Jon Vivens, who had over 1,000 yards receiving and 11 scores last season.
COACH: Tom McCartney (25th year, 160-103).
LAST YEAR: 8-3 overall, 3-2 Mt. Cameron League (Lost 48-28 to Regis Jesuit in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Tyler Banks (Jr., NG, 5-8, 230); Ted Chasson (Sr., RT/DE, 6-2, 245); Bryce Desjardins (Jr., DB/WR, 6-0, 165); Colt Futter (Sr., C, 6-0, 210); Matt Greenwald (Jr., DB/WR, 6-1, 175); Michael Johnson (Jr., LT, 6-4, 285); Mariano Kemp (Sr., TB/DL, 5-10, 230); Ashton Nichols (Jr., SS, 6-3, 185); Paul Scheufele (Sr., RG, 6-1, 250); Tevye Schuettpelz-Rohl (Sr., K/WR, 5-10, 180) Koby Soden (Sr., LG, 6-3, 270); Ethan Villarreal (Sr., LB, 6-0, 185).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Aidan Atkinson (So., QB, 6-3, 195); Erich Bendele (Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 240); Landon Colvin (So., LB, 6-2, 207); Zach Ellis (Jr., DE, 6-5, 210); Jeff Erickson (Sr., LB, 6-1, 200); Nick McCarthy (Jr., QB, 6-3, 185); Jake Sheerin (Sr., DB, 6-0, 185); Brayden Wood (Fr., DE, 6-3, 225).
DIVISION-1/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Kemp, Soden, Chasson, Schuettpelz-Rohl, Villarreal, Scheufele, Bendele.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 28 vs. Arapahoe, October 6 at Columbine, October 13 vs. ThunderRidge, October 20 at Mullen.
STRENGTHS: The Knights should be able to pressure the quarterback and could force more turnovers, especially with a ball-hawk kind of defensive backfield with experience.
WEAKNESSES: Unproven at wideout, quarterback, and young at linebacker outside of Villarreal.
OUTLOOK: The Knights hope to celebrate McCartney's 25th year at the helm with a deep playoff run after consecutive first-round exits. As is typical with Fairview, the Knights offense will go as their quarterback goes but Fairview has a strong-yet-sneaky athletic Kemp in the backfield who will relieve some pressure on the pass. On the surface, the defense could be much more well-rounded and they'll need to limit points against when it comes to the month-long stretch of games noted above. Of note — make a point to attend the 54th city game with Boulder, also a Youth Football Night for the city. There is no better atmosphere in the area, and area kids (7-13) sporting their team's jerseys will get free admission.
• League outlook: Grandview reached the quarterfinals last season before falling to eventual champion Valor Christian, and the Wolves remain the team to beat in 2017 behind standout receiver Gunnar Gentry (823 yard and 10 TDs receiving). Despite going 8-2, Doherty missed out on the playoffs because its RPI was too low and the Spartans could have a similar problem this year, as the rest of the league went a combined 8-32.
COACH: Vincent Smith (2nd year, 1-9).
LAST YEAR: 1-9 overall, 1-4 Mt. Massive League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Jack Braymiller (Sr., DL, 6-2, 225); Spencer Clarke (Sr., OL, 6-3, 260); Joe Colucci (Sr., DL, 6-1, 250); Patrick Fletcher (Sr., RB, 5-9, 190); Jackson Hussey (Sr., OL, 6-4, 300); Sam Lowery (Jr., P/K, 6-0, 180); Ethan Laborde (Jr., LS, 5-7, 150); Drew Maier (So., QB, 6-1, 185); Wilson Maier (Sr., DB, 5-11, 200); Jeremy Miller (Sr., DL, 6-1, 215); Angel Ocon (Jr., OL, 6-0, 255); Cole Peterson (Sr., LB, 6-3, 205); Shane Provost (So., RB, 5-11, 230); Ryan Travis (Sr., DB, 5-11, 190).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Jaden Bailey (So., OL); Andre Dorado (Sr., LB, 5-6, 160); Saul Escobar (So., RB/DB); Daniel Feenstra (So., RB/DB); Alec Kahn (Sr., LB, 5-10, 150); William Ramirez (So., LB); Preston Stansel (Jr., ATH); Cade Travis (Jr., WR/DB, 5-10, 150).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Hussey, Clarke, Peterson, R. Travis, Maier, Fletcher, Colucci, Braymiller.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 15 vs. Arvada West and October 13 at Overland.
STRENGTHS: The Panthers, behind a bigger and stronger line, have the potential to get a run game working with Fletcher and Provost another year better.
WEAKNESSES: The program continues to see a lack of depth and too many two-way players for a 5A team.
OUTLOOK: The Panthers have had a good summer and have put in a lot of hours to shed the record of past seasons and the overall reputation they've been cloaked with. Change starts with a coach who believes, and Smith is that guy. He's given guys the chance to find their niche, and there are several players that have gotten a lot of varsity time since they were sophomores — on a playoff qualifying team, mind you. If they can keep healthy, the Panthers should be able to put up some points, particularly if Provost and Fletcher can learn to complement each other. The schedule is tough, with just two opponents who were under .500 last year (Overland, Smoky Hill).
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