Nobody had to warn Erie High football coach Larry Gartrell of the difficulties associated with moving up a classification when the Tigers made the leap from 2A to 3A last season.
Gartrell had been through it once before. After winning a 1A state title in 1997, his Tigers endured six straight losing seasons from 1999-2004 while trying to gain a foothold in 2A.
Maybe that experience is one reason the Tigers barely missed a beat in the transition last season.
Fresh off of five straight successful years in which they’d finally established themselves as one of the elite 2A teams, the Tigers fought through the challenges of facing increased competition to go 7-4 and reach the 3A playoffs in 2010.
Six miles or so to the southwest, another perennial 2A power, Holy Family, made the same jump to 3A and turned in a respectable 7-3 mark, though the HFHS Tigers just missed out on a postseason berth despite their three losses coming by a combined 19 points.
Holy Family coach Mike D. Gabriel admits there were growing pains last season — scouting a whole new set of opponents and adjusting to the increased speed of the game chief among them.
While Erie was forced to make the move because its enrollment keeps growing, Holy Family elected for the change because Gabriel felt his program was ready for the challenge.
“That made us more confident about the move,” Gabriel said of knowing former league foe Erie would be going to 3A last year as well. “To see the success they had and the success we had, itreassured us that we were in the right spot.”
That success also preserved their budding rivalry as a meaningful game with state-level implications.
Holy Family hosts Erie at 7 p.m. Friday night in a non-conference game that could go a long way in determining whether one or both makes the postseason at the end of the year. Erie won 21-17 last year and got in. HFHS was left out.
Both squads look early on like playoff contenders once again in a 51-school classification where postseason spots are at a premium. Holy Family trounced Steamboat Springs in Week 1 with a host of Tigers making plays, while Erie knocked off defending state champ Elizabeth.
“I think the kids have really looked to it as a big game,” Gabriel said.
And given the continuous growth in Erie and the traditions at both schools, it isn’t hard to see the game entertaining for years to come.
at Fairview (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Recht Field
Last week: Fairview 21, Poudre 3; Arapahoe 25, Rangeview 0.
Quick hits: Smoke from the Fourmile Canyon Fire caused this game to be moved to Aurora last year, leaving FHS with five of its first six games on the road. The Knights enjoy the opposite this year and face a Raiders squad that isn’t the same explosive group that edged them 50-47 last fall.
Lindenstein’s line: Fairview by 9.
at Greeley West (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., District 6 Stadium.
Last week: Monarch bye; Greeley West 42, Montbello 14.
Quick hits: Monarch rolled the Spartans by four touchdowns last year and has had two weeks to prepare since a Zero Week win in Florida. Even though the proud Spartans are on a mission to get back to the postseason, Monarch’s power up front should prove the difference.
Lindenstein’s line: Monarch by 11.
at Standley Lake (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., NAAC.
Last week: Longmont 47, Skyline 15; Longmont 43, Arvada West 7; Standley Lake 38, Aurora Central 12.
Quick hits: Nothing like playing two games one week and then having to play on Thursday the next. But Longmont seems loaded for the challenge. The 4A fourth-ranked Trojans just have to make sure they don’t peek ahead to next week’s showdown with No. 2 Wheat Ridge.
Lindenstein’s line: Longmont by 24.
at Silver Creek (0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Everly-Montgomery Field.
Last week: Kent Denver 36, Silver Creek 35, OT; Frederick 6, Prairie View 0.
Quick hits: Silver Creek quarterback Austin Apodaca was as advertised in Week 1, going 29 for 37 with 390 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Now the Raptors need to eliminate fumbles and have the defense match the offense’s efforts.
Lindenstein’s line: Silver Creek by 15.
at Boulder (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Recht Field.
Last week: Boulder 33, George Washington 12; Fort Collins 37, Loveland 7.
Quick hits: The Panthers are looking like they might be ready to make a run in Year 4 of the Coach Jeff Santee era. With their schedule, there’s no reason they can’t take a 4-0 record and plenty of momentum heading into league play. Usually tough Loveland is green and rebuilding.
Lindenstein’s line: Boulder by 17.
at Legacy (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., North Stadium.
Last week: Broomfield bye; Legacy 33, Overland 20.
Quick hits: 4A Broomfield will be itching for revenge after falling on a late field goal in the renewal of the crosstown rivalry last year. 5A Legacy returns 13 starters, including plenty on both lines where the physical Lightning and Eagles could decide the game.
Lindenstein’s line: Legacy by 3.
vs. Niwot (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Everly-Montgomery Field.
Last week: Longmont 47, Skyline 15; Niwot 34, Adams City 14.
Quick hits: Skyline ended a long drought against the Cougars last year, but Niwot has most of its playmakers back. NHS tailback Dillon Manzanares rushed for 167 yards and two TDs in Week 1.
Lindenstein’s line: Niwot by 7.
at Holy Family (1-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Mike G. Gabriel Field.
Last week: Erie 27, Elizabeth 7; Holy Family 52, Steamboat Springs 6.
Quick hits: See related story.
Lindenstein’s line: Holy Family by 4.
at Lutheran (2-0)
Kickoff: 4 p.m.
Last week: Byers 26, Nederland 6; Lutheran 49, Cornerstone Christian 0.
Quick hits: Nederland felt like it was close to turning the corner in the loss to Byers last week. But the Panthers will be put to the test once again against a 1A No. 6 Lutheran squad that combined Denver Lutheran and Lutheran-Parker into one this fall.
Lindenstein’s line: Lutheran by 23.
at Estes Park (0-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Last week: Lyons bye; Middle Park 53, Estes Park 8.
Quick hits: Estes Park is aiming to turn the corner this season with 16 starters back. But Lyons has owned this rivalry in recent years, outscoring the Bobcats 67-7 in the last two.
Lindenstein’s line: Lyons by 29.
at Conifer (0-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Last week: Centaurus 24, Northridge 19; D’Evelyn 42, Conifer 20.
Quick hits: Centaurus showed some grit with its road rally last week. A second-straight road win to start the season would be a huge boost for a young squad trying to keep a winning tradition going.
Lindenstein’s line: Centaurus by 8.