League and team outlook
Front Range League
Teams and trends: Fairview, Fossil Ridge, Horizon, Legacy, Poudre and Rocky Mountain. The Knights won the inaugural league title in the newly formed Front Range League in 2018. Before that, Fairview played in the Mt. Cameron League along with football-power Columbine. Legacy was in the Mt. Antero League. Fossil Ridge and Horizon were in the Mt. Elbert League. Poudre was in the Mt. Lincoln League with Valor Christian and Rocky Mountain was in the Mt. Wilson League.
2018 league leaders: Offensively, Fairview’s Aidan Atkinson* led the way with 3,952 yards through the air and 55 touchdowns. Legacy’s Dakota Key* rushed for 1,799 yards, while Fossil Ridge’s Casey Knutsen and Poudre’s Tate Satterfield* each had 14 rushing TD’s. Fairview’s Bryce DesJardins had 1,221 receiving yards and caught 21 touchdowns. Returning Knights senior Henry Blackburn, meanwhile, accounted for 179 points with 17 touchdowns, four field goals and 65 PATs. Defensively, Fossil Ridge’s Sean Bowerfind had 160 tackles, while Legacy’s Hunter O’Connor* had eight sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Horizon’s Dadrian Paris had six interceptions.
Numbers game: Fairview’s Aidan Atkinson threw 55 touchdowns in 2018, a state record. The rest of the league threw a combined 58 touchdowns. On the ground, Legacy’s Dakota Key returns as not only the most productive back in yards from 2018, but in terms of yards per carry among eligible returners with at least 100 carries. He averaged 6.1 yards on 297 carries. On the other side of the ball, the top four players with the most tackles per game in 2018 are expected to be back with Legacy’s Adam Lynch (9.1 per game), Fairview’s Henry Blackburn (8.1), Fairview’s Brayden Wood (6.9) and Legacy’s Hunter O’Connor (6.2) all returning.
Coach: Tom McCartney
The Scorecard: It’s Year 27 for McCartney, who has accumulated a 180-107 record at Fairview. Year 26 was full of the spectacular and fascinating, and the bewildering and cruel. Quarterback Aidan Atkinson and a talented group of wideouts put the state on notice as Atkinson threw for 3,952 yards and a Colorado high school-record 55 touchdowns; the Northwestern commit would likely have gone for more but suffered a season-ending injury in the final game of the regular season. Fairview, with Liam O’Brien at QB, beat Denver East in Round 1 before losing to ThunderRidge for the second time in 2018 in the second round. In 2019, Atkinson is back healthy, and he’ll have the multi-talented Henry Blackburn as a friendly target, but he’ll be without Bryce DesJardins and Matt Greenwald, who graduated after being first and second on the team in receiving yards. On the line, new tackle Cole Johnson, CU offensive coordinator Jay Johnson’s son, will be crucial in protecting Atkinson. Brayden Wood should again be a stalwart on the defensive line.
Coach: Corey Heinz
The Scorecard: The Lightning got off to a bumpy start in 2018 under their new coach, Heinz, before rallying for five straight wins, including an upset win over Mullen in the opening round of the state playoffs. In 2019, the Lightning return a few nice pieces to their stout rushing attack, including seniors Ian Gilbert and Andrew Kue on the line, and of course Dakota Key, who had eight 100-yard games last season. Through the air, though, they graduated starting quarterback Nick McCarthy as well as Noah Anderson, who had the second-most passing attempts on the team. QB Brayden Harris, who is returning, had the third most attempts with only six. Returning wideouts Jacob Duran, Cole Walker and Jaiden Peterson should help the air attack. Defensively, Hunter O’Connor returns, and he was a monster from the defensive end position with a league-best eight sacks. On the line, Jal Chan and Tyler Weber also return, as do linebackers Adam Lynch and Mason Dickerson.
Metro 10 League
Teams and trends: Adams City, Boulder, Denver East, Far Northeast Warriors, Mountain Range, Northglenn, Prairie View, Rangeview, Smoky Hill and Westminster. Smoky Hill won the league title last year in the league’s first year in existence. Since the league is 10 teams — teams which went a combined 22-66 the year prior — every team only plays one or two nonconference games.
2018 league leaders: Offensively, Denver East’s Myles Patterson threw for 2,508 yards and 22 touchdowns. Smoky Hill’s Obasanjo Sanni* rushed for 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also accounted for 104 points. Westminster’s Nic Lopez averaged a league-most 8.9 yards per carry among runners with at least 100 carries. Defensively, Adams City’s Jacob Marquez had 134 tackles and Smoky Hill’s David Hoage had 24 tackles for loss. Mountain Range’s Diego Torres* had 13 sacks and Northglenn’s Hector Ortega had seven interceptions.
Numbers game: Smoky Hill and Denver East both made the state playoffs before bowing out in the opening round. Can the league get a win in the postseason this year? Well, last year Denver East led the league through the air with 230 passing yards per game, but now will be without 2018 starting QB Myles Patterson. Smoky Hill, Northglenn and Rangeview were the only other teams that averaged over 100 yards through the air. Westminster dominated on the ground at 307 yards per game. Smoky Hill, Northglenn, the Far Northeast Warriors and Boulder were the other league teams averaging more than 100 yards on the ground.
*Eligible to return in 2019
Coach: Ryan Bishop
The Scorecard: Under Bishop, the Panthers are looking to change the football culture at the school. He took over the head position just days after Vincent Smith turned in his resignation, and his team showed plenty of reason for optimism in Year 1. In Year 2, Boulder, which went 4-5 in the Metro 10 League and 4-6 overall (a loss to rival Fairview Week 1), has plenty of returners. Shane Provost, a running back who will pretty much play everywhere, leads the group after rushing for 531 yards and accounting for 31 tackles. Wiley Bennett, a defensive back and wideout, and William Ramirez, an outside linebacker and receiver, are back, and are nice prospects. And MLB Manny Arellano, RB/DB Daniel Feenstra and DB/RB Saul Escobar should also be key in helping push the program forward. “We had an amazing offseason, where the team worked to change the culture and the attitude of the program,” Bishop said. “With new defensive and offensive coordinators, we have a fresh look with new systems.”