• League outlook: The Northern will be one of the best leagues in the class, with three teams that are state contenders — Silver Creek, Fort Morgan and Longmont. The Raptors set a high bar last year, going undefeated in the regular season and reaching the state semifinals. Trey McBride leads Fort Morgan's charge as the talented two-way player can hurt you on both sides of the ball. Longmont, meanwhile, is looking to "rebound" after a season that saw them bow out in the first round of the playoffs. That constitutes a down year for the Trojans. If one of the other teams in the league steps up, it could be Centaurus. The Warriors are always dangerous and were better than their 4-6 record last season.
COACH: Bob Carskie (3rd year, 11-9 record at CHS).
LAST YEAR: 4-6 overall, 1-4 Class 3A Northern League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Ashur Cook (Jr., LB, 6-1, 180); Nick Gomez (Sr., K/P, 6-0, 215); Andres Mendoza (Jr., WR, 5-9, 145); Anthony Montoya (Jr., WR/DB, 5-11, 165); Joe Ostrowski (Sr., C/DL, 6-0, 195); Mac Post (Sr., LB/FB, 6-0, 220); Hunter Richards (Jr., G, 5-10, 225), Elijah Silver (Sr., WR/RB, 6-0, 185); Jason Tran (Jr., LB, 5-10, 205); Roberto Velasco (Sr., 5-10, 195).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Nick Faraca (So., QB, 5-11, 165); Taylor Herbstreet (So., RB/DB); Zach Hyman (Sr., RB/LB, 5-6, 175); Malachi Lisowski (Sr., T, 6-5, 300); Matthew McGuire (Sr., FB); Rob Ridgely (Jr., OL, 6-2, 220); Jackson Sniff (Sr., RB/DB); Nathan Uribes (Jr., OL, 6-0, 220); Thomas Varner (Sr., DE, 6-0, 175).
DIVISION-1/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Post (Interest from Wyoming, Air Force, Columbia, Penn); Silver.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 23 vs. Erie; October 27 vs. Thompson Valley.
STRENGTHS: Athletic at wide receiver, and with Post bullish in the run game.
WEAKNESSES: Need more "plus-10" plays and explosiveness to get through league play.
OUTLOOK: Centaurus certainly isn't a 'have-not' type of team — the Warriors have some great athletes and the team seems to be pretty disciplined overall — but the top-heaviness of the league with Silver Creek, Fort Morgan and Longmont will simply be a tough nut to crack. They'll need to score an upset or two in addition to getting a good early start. Carskie really likes the oncoming Lisowski, and the lines as a whole look to have good size. The development of Faraca under center will be huge, but considering the Warriors have churned out two good QB's recently in Ryan Cotter and Shaq Ebadi, there's a sense he has the right support.
COACH: Doug Johnson (18th year, 128-64 record).
LAST YEAR: 6-5 overall, 3-2 Class 3A Northern League. Lost 28-23 to Lewis-Palmer in first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: Oakley Dehning (Jr., QB, 5-10, 180); Jayden Elkins (Jr., FL, 6-1, 175); Drake Engelking (Jr., RB, 5-11, 175); Jarod Fixmer (Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 260); Austin Hassler (Sr., LB, 5-9, 190); JJ Lord (Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 225); Danny Nichols (Sr., LB/TE, 6-1, 195); Nick Paone (Sr., CB, 6-2, 175); Avery Peterson (Sr., LB, 5-11, 210); Will Preuss (Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 215); Bryce Rhode (So., OL/DL, 6-1, 275); Anthony Rodriguez (Jr., S, 5-8, 170); Grant Rulon (Jr., S/WR, 6-0, 175); Jason Schneider (Sr., DL/LB, 5-11, 225); Telvin Townsend (Jr., DL, 6-3, 280).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Bryan Blanks (Sr., 6-2, 225); Brayden Engelking (So., RB/LB, 5-10, 175); Beck Fieth (Jr., DB, 5-10, 175); Jordan Gallegos (Jr., OL/DL, 5-10, 215); Chris Gumeson (Jr., LB, 5-11, 180); Jeremiah Kennedy (Sr., WR, 6-2, 175); Devon Leach (So., DT, 6-4, 255); Evan Sweeney (Sr., OL/DL, 6-1, 235); Aiden Tank (So., QB, 5-9, 175); Sage Yazzi (So., LB, 6-1, 175).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Dehning, Elkins, Engelking, Fixmer, Hassler, Lord, Nichols, Paone, Preuss, Schneider, Townsend.
MUST-SEE GAMES: Sept. 1 vs. Pueblo East; Sept. 22 vs. Mead; Oct. 27 vs. Silver Creek.
STRENGTHS: The Trojans are older this year with a number of returning sophomore from last season, and most of the defense is returning with a number of promising new faces added to the mix.
WEAKNESSES: Depth and versatility at the offensive end could become a concern while the Trojans work their way through this season's bear of a schedule that features a number of deep playoff contenders.
OUTLOOK: For several seasons in a row, the Trojans were one of a few favorites to take home the state title but a number of teams in the area like Mead, Silver Creek and Holy Family have taken a step forward and caught up with Longmont. The Trojans will face all of those teams in 2017, but feel more confident now that last year's younger players have matured a year. Led by linebackers Austin Hassler, the Longmont defense should be even better than last year and the Trojans appear to be in a position to get back into the playoffs yet again.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
COACH: Mike Apodaca (15th year, 94-64 record).
LAST YEAR: 12-1 overall, 5-0 Northern League. Lost 17-7 to Discovery Canyon in the semifinals of the Class 3A state playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: TJ Blazon (Sr., WR, 5-9, 170); Jack Ranglos (Jr., OL, 6-5, 210); Joe Roth-Bogret (Sr., WR, 6-3, 155); Sam Dirkes (Jr., DL, 6-3, 265); Coltan Grabau (Jr., K, 6-0, 170); Brandon Harper (Sr., LB, 5-10, 180); Andreik Knechtel (Sr., RB, 5'10, 185); Patrick Miller (Jr., DL, 6-4, 220); Spencer Rich (Jr., DB, 6-1, 175); Trevor Riters (Sr., LB, 6-3, 200); Will Shrader (Sr., OL, 6-2, 255); Jake Williams (Sr., DL, 6-3, 265).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Christian Adams (Jr., DB, 6-3, 185); Nick Grasinger (Sr., DB, 5-10, 160); Brandin Graves (Sr., WR, 5-11, 165); Trevor Ordway (Jr., DL, 6-3, 210); Logan Walker (Jr., OL, 6-2, 275).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Blazon, Dirkes, Grabau, Harper, Knechtel, Miller, Ranglos, Rich, Riters, Roth-Bogret, Williams.
MUST-SEE GAMES: Sept. 29 at Erie; Oct. 13 at Fort Morgan; Oct. 27 at Longmont.
STRENGTHS: This year's offensive and defensive lines will have good size and skill, which will boost a solid group of offensive skill positions and athletic linebackers.
WEAKNESSES: The Raptors will be breaking in a number of new players, including a new quarterback and an inexperience defensive backfield that will have to get up to speed quickly to fill in for the graduation of last year's gifted senior class.
OUTLOOK: In 2016, the Raptors were one win away from a shot at the Class 3A state championships. A number of the players who orchestrated that deep postseason run are now gone and the difficult task of achieving similar success now falls on a new group of Raptors. Still, the team returns as much as it lost and the Raptors are optimistic about the 2017 campaign despite a tough schedule standing in their way. The Raptors will rely on an athletic group of linemen to create opportunities for playmakers like Andreik Knechtel, TJ Blazon and Joe Roth-Bogret.
• League outlook: This will be a fun one night-in and night-out featuring multiple teams with contrasting styles but similar dreams of state titles. High-octane Holy Family can light up a scoreboard and the Tigers present a problem for anyone they play. Mead, meanwhile, is anxious to prove it isn't a flash in the pan, as the Mavericks look like they're in it for the long haul. Erie and Roosevelt can challenge, while Berthoud and Frederick are looking to make major moves up.
COACH: Chad Cooper (second year, 6-5 record).
LAST YEAR: 6-5, 2-3 Class 3A Tri-Valley League. Lost 27-15 to Pueblo East in first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: Julian Custine (Jr., K/P, 5-9, 160); Nate Hackney (Jr., OL/DL, 6-1, 245); Jacob Mansdorfer (Sr., FB/OLB, 5-10, 195); Cameron Marcucci (Sr., OL/DL, 6-7, 275); Alex Mathis (Sr., WR, 6-2, 165); Jaymeson Nelms (Sr., TE/DL, 6-4, 215); Max Parr (Sr., OL, 6-3, 255); Noah Roper (Jr., RB/OLB, 6-1, 185).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Jaden Gilmore (sr., LB, 6-1, 195); Ian McDonald (Jr., LB, 5-10, 175).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Roper, Marcucci, Hackney, Mathis, Nelms.
MUST-SEE GAMES: Sept. 16 at Northridge; Oct. 21 vs. Roosevelt; Oct. 28 at Mead.
STRENGTHS: Roper is a talented running back and safety that will get to play behind good size and experience up front on the defensive and offensive lines.
WEAKNESSES: Despite returning a strong senior class with a lot of two-year starters, skill positions and quarterback will be young and will lack experience.
OUTLOOK: The Tigers broke through and qualified for the state playoffs last year, marking the first time they were able to do so in several years. They're determined to do it again in 2017. Talented two-way player Noah Roper will be the driving force behind the Tigers' efforts this season while they attempt to fill voids at several key positions, including quarterback and wide receiver, that were caused by graduation. The Tigers expect to have a strong team this season and they'll have their hands full in the Tri-Valley League against teams like Mead and Holy Family.
COACH: Travis Peeples (1st year, 0-0).
LAST YEAR: 1-9 overall, 0-5 Tri-Valley League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Ethan Carder (Sr., C, 6-1, 305); Jacob Cole (Sr., LB, 6-0, 205); Kerric D'arcy (Sr., G, 6-3, 250); Matt Johnson (Sr., LB, 6-1, 220); James Jones (Sr., CB, 6-1, 215); Matt Olson (Sr., FS, 6-1, 190); Mateo Rives (Sr., DE, 6-2, 240); Logan Robinson (Jr., DE, 6-2, 200); Dante Salomon (Sr., T, 6-1, 215).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Dante Chiorvola (Jr., RB/WR, 5-11, 150); Luke Dunker (So., K, 5-9, 150); Jake Green (So., QB, 5-9, 150); Shane Johnson (Sr., OL, 6-2, 230); Kyle Pita (Sr., DB, 5-11, 160); Kyle Polansky (Sr., QB, 5-9, 155); Garrett Robinson (Sr., LB 6-1, 180); Dylan Sindilar (So., TE); Travis Wyatt (Sr., OL, 6-3, 210).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Olson, M. Johnson, Carder, Cole, Rives, Jones.
MUST-SEE GAMES: September 8 vs. Conifer and October 20 at Berthoud.
STRENGTHS: Depth in the lines will allow the hogs to stick to only offensive or defensive duties, and defense looks more experienced.
WEAKNESSES: The team relied heavily on a very good senior tailback last year, meaning the skill guys are relatively raw.
OUTLOOK: The Warriors showed great potential in their future with a 5-5 JV team and a 10-0 freshmen team, and Peeples is hopeful they can mold those players into varsity stalwarts. A former college quarterback at Central Florida, Peeples could be just the right guy to inject some new offensive ideas into the FHS system, and they could use it given they scored just 9.6 points a game last year. Rives tallied 11 sacks last year and should bring a bit of 'nasty' to the D as colleges eye him.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
COACH: Mike D. Gabriel (10th year, 71-27).
LAST YEAR: 9-3 overall, 5-0 in the Tri-Valley; lost 41-21 to Pueblo East in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: Brandon Biehler (Sr., DE, 6-2, 205); Cade Carter (Sr., OL, 6-0, 220); Sebastian Dalton (Jr., DL, 5-10, 220); Andrew Edwards (Sr., OL, 6-0, 260); Dilan Gonzalez (Sr. LB, 6-2, 215); Kyle Helbig (Jr., TE-DE, 6-4, 220); Matteo Lonardo (Sr., CB, 6-0, 170); Jerome Quintana (Sr., DE, 6-1, 195); Stone Samaras (Jr., QB, 5-10, 185); Sean Willden (Sr., OL, 6-0, 240).
OTHERS TO WATCH: None. "They've got to earn it first," said Gabriel, who is keeping with tradition.
DIVISION-I/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Biehler, Carter, Gonzalez, Helbig, Dylan Hunter, Lonardo, Gabin Orbus, Quintana, Samaras, Willden
MUST-SEE GAME: Oct. 20 at Mead, 7 p.m.
STRENGTHS: The Tigers have tradition on their side and they understand that it is not easy for team to line up against the purple and gold.
WEAKNESSES: Inexperience at some key positions.
OUTLOOK: We've come to expect great things from the Tigers over the last few seasons, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where — under the direction of offensive mastermind/coordinator Matt Brothers — they have no trouble putting up points and doing it quickly. The season ended quicker than they would have liked last season in Pueblo, but when they left the field against the eventual 3A champs, they knew what they were capable of and there are plenty of pieces in place that are hungry for a shot at redemption. The Tri-Valley League will have them ready for another playoff push.
COACH: Jason Klatt (sixth year, 31-22 record).
LAST YEAR: 9-4 overall, 4-1 Class 3A Tri-Valley League. Lost 28-21 to Pueblo East in semifinals of the Class 3A state playoffs.
RETURNING STARTERS: Derek Edwards (Sr., RB, 6-3, 215); Zach Erickson (Sr., DL, 6-8, 305); Dom Esters (Sr., WR, 6-2, 175); Preston Hall (Jr., OL, 6-1, 245); Evan Hansen (Sr., LB, 6-1, 190); Tyler Keys (Sr., QB/DB, 5-10, 175); Ryan Lavanchy (Sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 180); Tristen Lee (Sr., OL, 6-6, 240); Trace Lindemann (Sr,. DB, 6-3, 180); Nathan Mackey (Sr., RB, 5-10, 185); Luis Miramontes (Sr., DL, 5-10, 265); Jorden Steele (Sr., TE/LB, 6-1, 205); Greyson Young (Sr., LB, 5-10, 175).
OTHERS TO WATCH: C.J. Shellenberger (Sr., WR, 5-10, 160); Ryan Bullock (Jr., RB, 5-8, 150); Izeah Escobedo (Sr., RB/LB, 5-8, 165); KJ Jacobs (Jr., DE, 6-4, 215).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Edwards, Erickson, Esters, Hansen, Keys, Lavanchy, Lee, Lindemann, Mackey.
MUST-SEE GAME: Sept. 22 at Longmont; Oct. 20 vs. Holy Family; Oct. 27 at Erie.
STRENGTHS: After last year's run to the Final Four as the No. 11 seed in Class 3A, the Mavericks return a promising number of talented players who now have postseason experience.
WEAKNESSES: Graduating quarterback Riley Glynn will leave a lot of slack to pick up, as Glynn's ability to spread the ball around gave the Mavericks a versatility on offense that will be difficult to recreate.
OUTLOOK: The Mavericks had a major breakthrough season in 2016 and will be looking to repeat last fall's miraculous run to the state semifinals. They'll have to find their momentum again while breaking in a number of new players at key positions. Nathan Mackey is the state's rushing leader among returning players and the Mavericks have a solid group of seniors that has the ability and experience to successfully guide the team through its Tri-Valley schedule again in 2017.
Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/BoCoPreps