8 man football team Justice High ...
Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Justice Phoenix head coach Nels Thoreson, center, continues to be a positive influence on his players in his seventh season. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

League and team outlook

Class 2A
Patriot West League
Teams and trends: Berthoud, Eaton, Prospect Ridge Academy, Resurrection Christian, The Academy and University. Since the league was created in 2016, Resurrection Christian has won the title twice and Eaton has won it once. The Miners will have to make a leap to contend after winning three league games in three years.
2018 league leaders: Offensively, The Academy’s Brandon Boston* threw for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns. Resurrection Christian’s Kyle Lueck rushed for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Academy’s Grady Mandl had 747 receiving yards, while Resurrection Christian’s Zane Zuhlke caught seven touchdowns and accounted for 70 of his team’s points. Defensively, Berthoud’s Brock Johnson had 115 tackles and teammate Ty Beaman had 12 sacks. Zuhlke had 10 interceptions.
Numbers game: Resurrection Christian was tied with Loveland in the state for most interceptions last season with 24. The national leader had 31, per MaxPreps.
*Eligible to return in 2019

Prospect Ridge Miners
Coach: Mike Storer
The Scorecard: The Miners are looking to improve on 2018 when they went 1-8 overall and 0-5 in league. Storer, in his second year at the helm, doesn’t have a plethora of depth on his squad, saying “we have good numbers this year, but many of our twos and threes are either new to football or have not played in years.” Despite that, he has a handful of talented starters returning, including two-way lineman James Luehr, RB/LB Seth Hagan, OL/DL Evan Walls, QB/DE/DB Dylan Meredith, C/DE Deklan Wilk and OL/DL Greyden Sautter. “Going into the 2019 season we feel that our line play on both sides of the ball will be our biggest strength,” Storer said. “Our linemen are starting their second year in the system and are looking great. Outside of our line, we have some outside speed that will be beneficial.” He added: “The culture our football team has created will also foster some success for us on and off the field.”

Class 1A
Northern League
Teams and trends: Estes Park, Flatirons Academy, Highland, Lyons, Strasburg and The Pinnacle. Strasburg has not lost a league game since its inception in 2016. Before that, the Indians were in the 2A Frontier League; Lyons, Estes Park and Flatirons Academy played in the 1A Metro League; and Highland was in the 1A North Central League. The Pinnacle, meanwhile, played in the 2A Patriot West League prior to 2018.
2018 league leaders: Offensively, Flatirons Academy’s Zach Dube threw for 639 yards and Strasburg’s Michael Spence aired out seven touchdowns. Spence also rushed for 752 yards and 14 touchdowns, accumulating 102 points for his team. Estes Park’s Calum Torrey* had 442 receiving yards and Strasburg’s Michael Burns* caught five touchdowns. Defensively, Strasburg’s Wyatt Warren had 83 tackles and The Pinnacle’s Ivan Martinez Pantaleon had 25 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The Pinnacle’s Diego Santander*, Flatirons Academy’s Trevor Ryan* and Strasburg’s Jon Walters each had five interceptions.
Numbers game: Strasburg allowed on average 11.1 points per game in league in 2016 and 2017. Last year, it reduced it to an average of just 3.8 points.
*Eligible to return in 2019

Lyons Lions
Coach: Jason Yantzer
The Scorecard: The Lions need a jumpstart. They finished winless in 2018, getting outscored, 435-39. So, something good early into the 2019 season might serve as a nice lift — however, for that to happen, that something might have to come on the road. The Lions begin the season with four straight on the road, (five including a scrimmage), per MaxPreps, traveling to Sheridan, Clear Creek, Wiggins and Yuma. When they do finally get home, they’ll host league and state power Strasburg on Oct. 4. It’s never easy. The Lions, meanwhile, have just six seniors on their 2019 MaxPreps roster, including QB/WR/CB Colton Bashor, kicker Alexa Karsel, RB/LB Joey Applen, WR/DB Matt Izatt, RB/LB Isaac Paswaters and OL/DT Trevor Woelfle.

Class 1A 8-man
Central League
Teams and trends: Elbert, Front Range Christian, Justice, Rocky Mountain Lutheran and South Park. Since being named the 8-man Central League in 2014, many teams have come and gone. No team, however, has won the league title twice. In its five years, there has been five different champs.
2018 league leaders: Offensively, Front Range Christian’s Luke Hiltman* threw for 2,079 yards and 28 touchdowns. South Park’s Daigen Springer rushed for 1,112 yards and teammate Camren Rullan had 14 TD’s on the ground. Front Range Christian’s CJ Hoff* had 1,204 receiving yards and caught 17 touchdowns. Hoff accounted for 144 points. Defensively, Justice’s Mario Diaz had 129 tackles, 15 for loss. Rocky Mountain Lutheran’s Luke Hahm* had eight sacks and Hoff had eight interceptions.
Numbers game: The winner of the league title has gone undefeated inside league every year since its inception in 2014. That includes 2018 champ Front Range Christian, which, along with Justice, were the only teams in the league with more passing than rushing yards.

Justice Phoenix
Coach: Nels Thoreson
The Scorecard: Thoreson says it every year, “I truly never know who I truly have until the first practice.” Why? Justice is made up of students coming from tough circumstances and the team is made up of at-risk students who have been spurned by the traditional school system. Issues range from home problems, to past school concerns, to legal ones — fluctuation and uncertainty on the football team is commonplace. Thoreson expects returning starters in TE/DE Marc Rodriguez, QB/WR/LB Angel Garcia, OL/DL Larry Cortez, OL/DL Misael Huerta and OL/DE Pedro Barraza. The coach said these returners, size on the line, as well as the senior leadership of Rodriguez and Huerta will be a strength. Chemistry and experience in the skill positions, meanwhile, will be a weakness.

Fab five: DEF
Top five local returning defense. (2018 tackles per game):
1. Devon Edwards, Mead (12.3)
2. Jack Ewig, Monarch (10.3)
3. Adam Lynch, Legacy (9.1)
4. Hall Edmonds, Broomfield (8.4)
5. Henry Blackburn, Fairview (8.1)

Fab five: Scorers
Top five local returning scorers. (2018 touchdowns):
1. Henry Blackburn, Fairview (17 TDs)
2. Brandon Hornby, Frederick (15 TDs)
3. Jake Wachter, Mead (13 TDs)
4. Nathan Bailey, Mead (13 TDs)
5. Dakota Key, Legacy (13 TDs)