LONGMONT - The Skyline football team has been riding high since Day 1 of a 2017 season that saw them reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The anticipation of seeing what they could do to follow up last fall's breakthrough campaign made this past offseason harder than ever for the Skyline players to sit through. But the wait will soon be over and the Falcons' 2018 season will begin on Thursday.
Hosting Westminster at Everly-Montgomery Stadium on Thursday night, the Falcons will finally get their chance to show that last season's success was just the beginning.
"They're very excited and expectations are high, and understandably so," head coach Mike Silva said. "And we have a lot of guys back so we're a veteran group. We're very eager and confident, and our guys have a great mentality going into game one based on what we did last year."
The Westminster football team plays in Class 5A but has gone 1-9 in each of the past two seasons. The Wolves run a double-wing offense and a 3-4 defense. Their top returning rusher, senior Noah Lopez, ran for 316 yards in 2017 and the Wolves did not have a quarterback pass for more than 400 yards over the course of the whole season.
On paper, the Wolves may not present much of a challenge. Still, Silva said the Falcons aren't taking them lightly and don't plan to open the season by falling victim to a trap game.
"They're pretty clean and pretty fast," Silva said. "Historically, we haven't had a lot of size and some of the things they do have been tough for us to defend but I think we're a little bit bigger this year than we have been so I think that'll help. This early in the season, you always expect not to feel really great on offense and that you'll have to fly around and make up for some things on defense. But we return a lot of guys so I think maybe we're a little further along offensively than we've been in years past at this point too."
Winners of eight games last season, Skyline returns the bulk of last year's talented offense including senior quarterback Nate McGregor, a talented receiving group led by speedsters Kyle West and Jack Wathen, and senior tailback Jeremy Hollingsworth, who was among the state's rushing leaders with 1,913 yards and 31 touchdowns. The Falcons, however, gave up an average of just over 35 points per game in 2017 and will look to get off to a better start on defense.
Thursday's game will start at 7 p.m.