• League outlook: The race for the top spot in this league will be as good as any in the state as Broomfield, last year's runners-up, and Loveland will battle it out for conference supremacy. The Indians will be especially motivated, as they missed out on the playoffs due to finishing 17th in RPI despite going 9-1. Loveland will look to grind it out behind standout lineman Jayden Manu. Greeley West is also dangerous, while the rest of the league is looking to rebound after disappointing 2016s.
COACH: Blair Hubbard (2nd year; 11-3 at Broomfield).
LAST YEAR: 11-3 overall, 5-1 in Longs Peak League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Steven Croell (Jr., QB, 6-3, 185); Michael DeCamillis (Sr., OL-DL, 6-3, 260); Tanner Garner (Sr., Slot-DB, 6-0, 180); Trace Jaramillo (Sr., DB, 6-0, 180); Noah Jenson (Sr., TE-LB, 6-1, 215); Caleb Kennedy (Sr., OL-LB, 6-1, 220); Seth Orsborn (Sr., OL-DL, 6-0, 245); Dylan Pokorny (Sr., DT, 6-1, 230).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Ryan Campasso (Jr., OL, 6-4, 210); Matt Foster (Jr., Slot, 6-0, 175); Mitchell Gorman (Sr., RB, 6-0, 185); Ryan Ruger (Jr., OL, 6-1, 220); Dylan Torres (Jr., RB, 6-0, 180); Gavin Carlson (Sr., LB, 6-0, 215).
DIVISION I/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: DeCamillis, Jaramillo, Jenson, Kennedy.
MUST-SEE GAME: Oct. 6 vs. Loveland, 7 p.m.
STRENGTHS: Many steps ahead of last year. One year of experience in what was all new schemes and team culture last year. Players know the playbook and know what's expected of them.
WEAKNESSES: Depth in the line.
OUTLOOK: What do the Eagles do for an encore? After a brilliant run to the Class 4A state title game, Broomfield got a sniff of what many around the state thought was maybe a year or two ahead of the prognostications. Hubbard has had success everywhere he has gone — Faith Christian and Lutheran — and many wondered if his Midas Touch would work at a bigger school. The results speak for themselves. Junior quarterback Steven Croell earned the spot early last season and made the most of it as a sophomore and after a year in the system should flourish, especially with the explosive Garner in the backfield with him.
COACH: Jeremy Lanter (1st year, 0-0).
LAST YEAR: 3-7 overall, 0-5 Longs Peak League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Matt Baun (Sr., ATH, 6-3, 180); Brandon Barton (Sr., LB, 5-7, 155); Braden Golon (Sr., LB, 6-2, 200); Nate Nielsen (Sr., WR, 6-1, 185); Anton Sandoval (Sr., RB, 5-10, 170); Trent Tadewald (Sr., LB, 6-0, 185); Shane Timmerman (Sr., LB), 6-1, 185).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Liam Flannigan (So., RB, 5-9, 150); Alex Gazdik (Sr., WR, 5-6, 150); Izaiah Golden (So., DB, 5-10, 155); Byron Holmes (Sr., CB, 6-2, 170); Owen Johnson (Jr., OT, 6-7, 225); Lisandro Lara (Sr., DE, 5-8, 210); Jose Lopez (Sr., DE, 6-0, 280), Leonel Marufo (Sr., LB, 5-9, 200); Noah Pena (So., QB, 5-9, 135); Eric Ruiz (So., NG, 5-10, 200).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Lerner, Tadewald, Lara, Golon, Nielsen.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 8 vs. Summit; September 29 at Skyline.
STRENGTHS: Four seniors anchoring the defense at linebacker; seniors in the backfield and outside the hashes.
WEAKNESSES: Another head coach, another offensive system for the Cougars — usually a difficult undertaking for any team.
OUTLOOK: The Cougars have a coach in Lanter that has been part of a championship staff (Berthoud, 4A in 2007) and he is getting his first crack at being a head coach. A lot of individual attention is being paid, and that should help keep players engaged. The vibe around the team is they made strides last year and hope to carry some early success into a tough league. Nielsen returns as the leading yardage receiver from last year, and though the Cougars may start simple and build the playbook as they go, he is a deep threat. Sandoval is a heady player that went both ways last year, and he'll get a shot to be the primary back this season.
• League outlook: The Northern is historically a strong conference and that should remain the case in 2017. Windsor and Monarch should slug it out at the top of the standings, while Mountain View remains dangerous. And don't sleep on Skyline. The Falcons are still angry about missing the playoffs despite going 7-3, and they may be better this year.
COACH: Phil Bravo (20th year, 174-50).
LAST YEAR: 7-4 overall, 5-0 Class 4A Northern League (Lost 36-28 to Fruita Monument in the first round of the playoffs).
RETURNING STARTERS: Trent Brenner (Sr., OL); Ben Cole (Sr., DL/TE); Davis Elliott (Jr., OL); Keegan Feenstra (Jr., DE); Ben Fuchs (Sr., LB); Sam Hoswell (Sr., DL/OL); Jack Kapushion (Sr., DB); Tyler Lanphear (Jr., K); Max Laychak (Sr., RB); Alex Matsumoto (Sr., DB); Cole Polluconi (Sr., RB); Ethan Plott (Sr., LB); Max Ryterski (Sr., TE); Landon Sibley (Sr., DB); Trey Storm (Sr., DE); .
OTHERS TO WATCH: Jackson Bennett (Jr., TE); Ben Coatney (Sr., DB); Brenden Christensen (Sr., SE); Benny Hyde (Sr., DE); Jordon Shields (Sr., DT); Trey Stewart (So., LB); Alex Waschak (So., OL); Austen Weber (Sr., OL); Owen Weber (Sr., DB); Casey Zukosky (Sr., OL).
DIVISION-1/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Cole, Storm, Hoswell, Sibley, Powers, Fuchs.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 1 vs. Bear Creek, September 28 vs. Broomfield, and October 13 at Windsor.
STRENGTHS: The system. MoHi's old-school attack feasts on the smarts of the interior linemen and the reads for the running back. It's proven effective for years.
WEAKNESSES: Underclassmen had 66 total touches on offense last year — out of 620 plays.
OUTLOOK: The Coyotes scored a monumental league title last year after dropping back down to 4A but there are expectations teams like Fort Collins and Skyline are going to be tougher to beat, along with Windsor of course. Not much is known about any of the oncoming skill guys, which could be a good thing, but the Coyotes' depth on the lines is pretty remarkable and they should be able to win those trench wars more often than not. The non-league schedule is a bear — starting with 5A Bear Creek and continuing with Rampart, Denver South, Brighton and Broomfield (combined 34-24 record in 2016).
COACH: Michael Silva (third year, 9-11 record).
LAST YEAR: 7-3 overall, 2-3 Class 4A Northern League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Malakai Armendez (Sr., ILB, 5-11, 235); Tristan Balfour (Sr., C, 5-11, 170); Ricky Childers (Jr., G, 6-0, 270); Diego Gallardo (Sr., G, 5-10, 245); Isaac Hesse (Jr., OT, 6-1, 225); Nate McGreggor (Jr., QB, 6-1, 200); Alex Ortiz (Sr., ILB, 5-10, 230); Angel Perez (Sr., ILB, 5-8, 185); Austin Robison (So., OL, 6-5, 235); Connor Smith (Sr., OL, 6-3, 245); Jarod Svensson (Sr., C, 5-10, 235); Jack Wathen (Jr., WR, 5-10, 170); Kyle West (Jr., SB/LB, 5-9, 165).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Jeremy Hollingsworth (Jr., RB, 5-11, 187); Ryan Mitchem (Sr., DE, 6-3, 225); Pen Piggott (Sr., DL/OL, 6-2, 220); Moses Rivera (Sr., RB/C, 5-9, 175).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Armendez, Balfour, Gallardo, Mitchem, Ortiz, Rivera, Smith, Svensson.
MUST-SEE GAME: Sept. 5 at Monarch; Nov. 3 vs. Mountain View.
STRENGTHS: Good team speed on both sides of the ball, which should be an effective combination with a veteran unit returning on the offensive line.
WEAKNESSES: Graduated a lot of production on the offense, particularly at running back and quarterback, and depth is an issue at a number of positions.
OUTLOOK: The Falcons are entering the 2017 season with a chip on their shoulder, still angry over being left out of the postseason by the RPI system last year despite winning seven games. The team has not qualified for the playoffs since 1999 and will be attempting to stop the drought yet again this fall. The Falcons' league schedule won't make that an easy task, particularly if they are on the cusp down the home stretch and having to play Windsor and Mountain View in their final two games. Incoming transfer Jeremy Hollingsworth (Niwot) will boost the running back corps and the team should benefit from last season's winning experience.
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