PATRIOT WEST LEAGUE OUTLOOK
The league remained largely intact for this cycle, the exception being the addition of Berthoud (dropped down from 3A) and subtraction of The Pinnacle (off to 1A). The Spartans have state championship pedigree and will strengthen the league, while Eaton (5-0 league mark in 2017) and Resurrection Christian (4-1 league) were two of 2A's semifinalists. Yep, it's tough.
PROSPECT RIDGE ACADEMY
COACH: Mike Storer (First year, 0-0).
LAST YEAR: 3-6 overall, 2-3 in the 2A Patriot West.
RETURNING STARTERS: Dylan Meredith (So., WR/CB, 5-8, 135); Ryan Ellinger (Sr., WR/DB, 5-10, 140); Dillon Lucas (Sr., RB/LB, 5-9, 160); Jake Thiret (Sr., QB/DB, 6-3 190).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Miguel Gonzales (Sr., RB/LB, 5-10, 180); Seth Hagan (Jr., TE/LB, 6-1, 190); James Luehr (Jr., G/DT, 5-11, 235); Devon Payan (Sr., RB/DB, 5-11, 165); Thomas Roecker (Sr., G/DT, 5-11, 215); Nathaniel Savage (Sr., QB/WR/S, 5-10, 140); Micah Smith (Sr., RB/DB, 5-9, 170); Evan Walls (So., T/DT, 6-0, 255).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Hagan, Luehr, Lucas, Payan, Thiret.
MUST-SEE GAME: Sept. 29 at The Academy.
STRENGTHS: Storer is stoked that, in a good way, the team's athleticism has shown up early and hasn't seen a lot of separation as they've tried to produce a depth chart.
WEAKNESSES: They have but 24 kids on the roster right now, which could play tough on them in the second half of games week in and week out.
OUTLOOK: The progress PRA showed as a program was palpable in 2017, as it won three games in just its second varsity season and lost two more by fewer than five points. As Storer transitions from a big school program (Northglenn) to PRA (where he was already teaching), there is a sense that this tight group of kids are fully invested in the sport, showing up in summer 7's, embracing a team camp at CSU-Pueblo, and just working out. The Miners close out the season with a tough slate of opponents, but Storer again called it a big opportunity. "I am a firm believer in playing elite teams to test your program and your progress. Given that two of our last four opponents were playoff teams, we are eager to play these teams," he said.
* indicates league contest
Aug. 24 at Sheridan 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Cornerstone Christian Academy 4 p.m.
Sept. 8 Bishop Machebeuf 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 Jefferson 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 at The Academy* 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 Berthoud* 1 p.m.
Oct. 11 at University* 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 Eaton* 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Resurrection Christian* 7 p.m.
NORTHERN LEAGUE OUTLOOK
The league produced three playoff teams last year, including state champion Strasburg (beat Centauri 10-7 in title game). The Indians, in fact, have won two 1A titles in a row, with Highland and Cornerstone Christian finishing 2-3 in league each of the past two seasons. Lyons is right there, but will need to break an 0-8 drought against those teams to break through.
COACH: Jason Yantzer (Third year, 6-12 record).
LAST YEAR: 3-6 overall, 2-3 in Class 1A Northern League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Aiden Christiansen (So., QB, 5-9, 145); Brandan Evans (Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 180); Konner Mauck (Sr., RB/LB, 6-0, 190); Isaac Passwaters (Jr., RB/OLB, 5-11, 170); Monte Pickering (So., OL/ILB, 5-9, 160); Coleton Roberts (Sr., OL/DL, 6-0 , 210); Sean Stevelinck (So., TE/OLB, 5-11, 155).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Ryan Schechter (So., WR/LB, 6-1, 180); Ethan Wilson (Sr., WR/DB, 5-11, 170).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Mauck.
MUST-SEE GAME: Aug. 31 vs. Holyoke
STRENGTHS: An experienced line heads the Lions' best attributes, but Yantzer is also enthused about the team-first mentality he has witnessed.
WEAKNESSES: As all small schools deal with at one time or another, injuries could derail a season quickly because there just aren't a lot of kids on the sidelines to fall back on.
OUTLOOK: Yanzter saw a large group of guys go hit the weight room immediately after last season ended, and that team chemistry has continued to build since. Lyons last made the playoffs in 2013, and it's been since the John Nichols era that they've won a postseason game. Needless to say, there is a hunger there to get back to being traditionally strong. The athletic and nimble Christiansen does not have a lot of snaps under his belt at quarterback but should be able to extend plays quite often. Mauck is a bull who is getting small college interest, and he may be the breakout rusher the Lions need. "They are motivated to make their mark and to bring the program to the level it deserves to be," Yantzer said.
* indicates league contest
Aug. 31 Holyoke 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 at Clear Creek 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Wiggins 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Yuma TBA
Sept. 28 at Strasburg* 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Cornerstone Christian Academy* 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Estes Park* 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Highland* 7 p.m.
Oct. 27 The Pinnacle* 7 p.m.
Home games at Lyons High
CENTRAL LEAGUE OUTLOOK
Rocky Mountain Lutheran and South Park battled it out for the league crown last season and are a good bet to do the same in 2018. There's plenty of opportunity for teams to make a major move up, so it will be an interesting league to keep an eye on.
COACH: Nels Thoreson (sixth year, 11-29 at Justice)
LAST YEAR: 4-4 overall, 2-3 8-man Central League
RETURNING STARTERS: Mario Diaz (Sr., OL/MLB, 5-8, 150); Angel Garcia (So., QB/LB, 5-7, 175); TyShawn Silva (Sr. WR/CB, 5-6, 145); Gabe Salee (Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 215); Jose Almanza (Sr. WR/DE, 5-8, 155); Johnny Rodriguez (Sr., FB/MLB, 5-10, 215).
OTHERS TO WATCH: Victor Cortez (Jr., WR/DB, 5-7, 145); Luis Garcia (Sr. FB/DL, 5-10, 200); Abel Jimenez (Sr., OL/DL, 5-8, 200); Evan Gordillo (Sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 240); Blue Bock (Sr., WR/DB, 5-6, 145); Isaiah Koff (Sr., TE/LB, 5-10, 175); Jackson Tierney (Jr., TE/DE, 6-1, 160).
MUST-SEE GAMES: Oct. 6 vs. Belleview Christian at Recht Field.
STRENGTHS: Justice returns a lot of experience from last season, including senior leader Mario Diaz. The team showed signs of dominance last year, winning all four of its games by more than 30 points.
WEAKNESSES: It's the same answer from Thoreson as year's past: "Team chemistry," he said. "I never know who I truly have until the first practice." While Justice's wins came by at least 30 points last year, the Phoenix's losses came by an average of 30 points.
OUTLOOK: Justice has fared better over the last two seasons, winning nine games over that span compared to just four in the previous five years. The Phoenix should benefit from a large returning cast that includes the team's leader in Diaz. Justice is in search of a playoff appearance after coming up just short the last two years.
* indicates league contest
Aug. 31 at Hayden 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 Soroco 1 p.m.
Sept. 15 Rocky Mountain Lutheran* 1 p.m.
Sept. 22 at South Park* 1 p.m.
Sept. 29 Dolores Huerta Prep 1 p.m.
Oct. 6 Belleview Christian* 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Front Range Christian* 4 p.m.
Oct. 20 Elbert* 1 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Pikes Peak Christian 7 p.m.
Home games at Recht Field