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  • Longmont's Austin Hassler, bottom, makes a tackle against Greeley West's...

    Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Longmont's Austin Hassler, bottom, makes a tackle against Greeley West's Donovan Roker on Sept. 8.

  • Erie head coach Harold Simmons and the Tigers will host...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Erie head coach Harold Simmons and the Tigers will host the Erie Tournament of Champions starting Thursday.

  • Boulder's Omar Castruita, left, and the Panthers will play rival...

    Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Boulder's Omar Castruita, left, and the Panthers will play rival Fairview on Thursday.



This season’s zero week was an exciting one in the area and the first full week of the prep football season is finally here. Not only is it finally football season, but the opening round of 2017’s football games promises not to disappoint with a number of top-10 matchups and local rivalries on the docket. Softball, volleyball and boys soccer also feature some high-level matchups as the boys golf season begins to heat up after an exciting first two weeks.

Here’s a look forward at some of the bigger prep events coming up this weekend:



Pueblo East at Longmont, Friday, 7 p.m.

Having won the last three Class 3A state championships, Pueblo East unsurprisingly comes into the season ranked No. 1 in the classification and the seventh-ranked Trojans get the first crack at the Eagles in 2017. The vaunted Longmont linebacking corp. won’t have to deal with two of the 2016 Eagles’ talented rushers in Bryson Torres and Josh Tellez, who both graduated in the spring, and its ability to contain junior quarterback Luc Andrada could determine the outcome of the game. In what has become an exciting North-South rivalry, this will mark the fourth straight season in which these two teams faced one another in the opener. Longmont is 1-2 against Pueblo East in the past three years.


Mead at Lewis-Palmer, Friday, 7 p.m.

Nathan Mackey, the state’s returning rushing leader who ran for 1,781 yards as a junior in 2016, and the Mavericks are eager to kick off the 2017 campaign after reaching the 3A state semifinals last fall. Fifth-ranked Mead will open the fall against a tough opponent in No. 9 Lewis-Palmer, a 2016 quarterfinalist that also returns a top-tier running back in Dieudonne Chea, who rushed for 1,290 yards and 16 touchdowns despite missing several games because of injury last season. This game has all the ingredients to provide an early test for both teams, and an entertaining contest for the rest of us to watch.


Holy Family at Palisade, Friday, 4 p.m.

Coming off an exciting comeback victory against Mountain View in week zero, the third-ranked Holy Family Tigers (1-0) will have their hands full again when they travel to face No. 8 Palisade (1-0) on Friday. This game, a matchup of two Class 3A state quarterfinalists from 2016, features two teams that averaged over 42 points a game last season but had to battle against unranked opponents to start the season 1-0. Keep an eye on Tigers junior tight end/defensive end Kyle Helbig, who scored all four of his team’s touchdowns (3 receiving, 1 interception return) in the season opener and currently leads the entire state with 189 receiving yards.



Erie Tournament of Champions, Thursday-Saturday, at The Ballpark at Erie

This local tournament has grown well beyond being a state-tournament tune up for Colorado’s best ball clubs and has solidified itself as a showcase of the entire region’s top teams. With Erie High (11 state titles since 1997) playing host after finishing 4A runners-up in 2016, this tournament features the very best in Colorado and several surrounding states including Oklahoma’s Broken Arrow (seven 6A titles since 1997) and others. Other top-tier local clubs Legacy, Broomfield, Niwot, Silver Creek and Frederick will all be there looking to test their mettle in a competitive tournament environment that exceeds that of any Colorado state tournament bracket.

“The marquee draw is always Broken Arrow,” Erie head coach Harold Simmons said. “That’s the key that keeps everybody coming back. They were a little young last year and I think we beat them 13-12 so they’re gonna show up wanting to hammer everybody.”

Nearly every team attending this year’s Tournament of Champions has won a state title in the last decade. In the age of RPI, simply making it into the field at this high-level tournament is a blessing for any fall-season softball club.


Cross country

Centaurus Invitational, Saturday, 9 a.m.

Over the past couple decades, this meet has grown into an appealing option for some of the state’s best teams to get their first real in-state test of the fall season. This year’s meet will include a number of local teams, including Broomfield, Dawson, Erie, Holy Family, Legacy, Monarch, Peak to Peak and Prospect Ridge. That’s an impressive group of team and individual state-title contenders. While this year’s Centaurus Invitational will feature some top-notch local competition, it will also offer the Waneka Classic, a community 5K fundraiser for the Centaurus Warriors, which will begin at 7:30 a.m.



Regis Jesuit Tournament, Friday-Saturday, at Regis Jesuit High School

A high-caliber regional tournament for the teams who make it into the gold division based on last year’s performance, this two-day invitational will feature a number of local teams in Fairview, Monarch, Legacy, Holy Family, as well as a top-tier club from Kansas. A potential matchup between 5A No. 10 Fairview and 4A No. 2 Holy Family would be a real treat.


Boys golf

Metro League Match #4, Thursday, 8 a.m., at Colorado National Golf Club

Peak to Peak was second at last year’s Class 3A state championships and Dawson was third, and both will be looking for some low scores from their top golfers on Thursday. Jefferson Academy and Prospect Ridge will also be playing, giving this mid-season league tournament a bunch of local players to keep an eye on.


Boys soccer

Boulder at Fairview, Thursday, 6 p.m.

The Front Range League boasts a number of the best clubs in the state yet again, and those top-tier soccer teams are already going toe-to-toe in the early weeks of the season. The 5A No. 1-ranked Boulder Panthers (3-0) and the fourth-ranked Fairview Knights (2-0) are both undefeated and something’s got to give when these two teams meet up on Thursday night. It was only in 2015, after all, that Fairview defeated Boulder in the 5A state quarterfinals.


Silver Creek at Mullen, Friday, 4:30 p.m.

The Silver Creek Raptors entered the season ranked eighth in 4A by the preseason poll and have thus far lived up to their billing with a 1-1 tie against Littleton and a 2-1 overtime victory over Skyview. Senior Connor Peskin leads the club with a pair of goals and emerging sophomore Simon Gerlach has assisted on all three of the Raptors’ goals this season.


Boys tennis

Monarch at Broomfield, Thursday, 3:30 p.m.

Here you have not just a local rivalry, but one between two teams that finished close to one another in the team standings at the 2016 5A state championships. At the end of last fall, Monarch was 10th and Broomfield was 13th. Both teams graduating some good players at the end of last season and it should be interesting to see which young players emerge victorious as they battle one another on Thursday.

Brad Cochi: or