Fairview's air force
The Knights' passing attack is on pace to put up historic numbers this season. Totals through seven games include:
• WR Bryce DesJardins, Sr.: 47 receptions, 861 yards, 16 TDs
• WR Ashton Nichols, Sr.: 39 receptions, 525 yards, 3 TDs
• WR Matt Greenwald, Sr.: 38 receptions, 767 yards, 9 TDs
• WR Henry Blackburn, Jr.: 28 receptions, 563 yards, 9 TDs
• QB Aidan Atkinson, Jr.: 173-278, 2,937 passing yards, 38 TDs
BOULDER — There is an enduring sense of pride that accompanies playing the wide receiver position for the Fairview Knights football team.
Even in a long line of talented players, this fall's group of wideouts may end up with more to be proud of than any other that preceded it.
The 2018 Knights' receiving corp. - Matt Greenwald, Henry Blackburn, Bryce DesJardins and Ashton Nichols - has already powered a record-setting quarterbacking performance and, by season's end, could compete for school and statewide records of its own. With as many wins, catches, yards, touchdowns and hopefully a championship as they can get, this year's Knights receivers are determined to leave high school with their names etched into Fairview pass-catching lore.
"If you look at the past, you have Kenny Bell, Sam Martin, Cameron Frazier, guys like that," Greenwald said. "You come up wanting to be like those guys and live up to what they did. Just to be a part of that legacy is awesome."
Helping pace the Knights to a 6-1 record, the Fairview receivers have already made history just seven weeks into the campaign.
In a 67-33 win over Legacy on Sept. 27, Fairview quarterback Aidan Atkinson threw for 687 yards and nine touchdowns. Both numbers were all-time records for a single 11-man football game in the history of Colorado prep football. Nationally, Atkinson's yardage total was the sixth-most of any 11-man quarterback in history.
Atkinson was quick to admit that his record-setting performance wouldn't have been possible without his talented receiving corp.
"It's about time those guys get some recognition," Atkinson said. "They're crazy good."
Greenwald, a senior who has had back-to-back 200-plus-yard games, caught 11 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Blackburn, a junior who also led the Knights with 15 tackles against Legacy, made six catches for 140 yards and two scores. DesJardins, a senior who leads the team with 18 total touchdowns through seven games, caught five passes for 143 yards and scored four touchdowns. Nichols, a senior with seven pass breakups on defense this season, hauled in 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
"We didn't realize we were getting close to the record until the start of the fourth quarter because going into the third quarter, it was still a close game," DesJardins said. "It ended up working out for us and Aidan getting those 11-man records is pretty phenomenal. It's pretty unheard-of to have four guys go for over 100 yards and it was really fun to make a bunch of big plays in a great game like that.
"It's tons of fun to have four guys that can make plays every day, every play. People think that if you have four guys that are good, none can do that well individually. But we see it differently. Teams can't double us and we're always building off of each other. All four of us are best friends so when one guy catches a ball, the other guys are out there blocking for him so he can try to score."
DesJardins, who leads all of Colorado with 861 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns, added that the Knights receivers pride themselves on breaking plays for big yardage after the catch using their speed and ability to block for one another. That's a big reason why all four of them are among Colorado's top 16 players in receiving yards and Atkinson leads the nation with 2,937 passing yards and leads all players who have played seven games with 38 touchdown passes.
"Ever since last year, we've been working super hard," Blackburn said. "We've grown as a brotherhood and I think what separates us is how competitive we are with each other and how much we push each other to get better at the same time. We work well together and we all have great chemistry with Aidan. The harder we all push each other, the more the results show on the field."
All versatile players who play both ways, Fairview's top four receivers can execute all the route combinations, make all the reads and make all the plays necessary to thrive in the Knights' elaborate hurry-up passing attack. At 6-foot-3, Nichols is most often used as the go-up-and-get-it jump ball target. DesJardins is the quicker, shifty type. The other two just "find grass," according to Greenwald.
None of the Knights receivers have struggled to find open spaces on the football field this season. But all of them said they would trade the video game numbers they've been putting up in 2018 if it meant ending the Knights' lengthy search for a Class 5A state championship.
"Coach (Tom) McCartney has been coaching at Fairview for 26 years and he's been to the state championship game four times but he's never won it," Blackburn said. "It's a big deal to us to go out and try to get a state championship for him because we see how hard he works and the passion he has for the game. Our ultimate goal is to be state champions and we'll do whatever it takes to get there."
The Knights' season continues on Thursday when they host Fossil Ridge.