High school football in the northern part of the state is strong, most notably in two conferences in Class 4A: the Longs Peak League and the Northern League.
Five of the 16 teams in the Class 4A state football tournament came from the two leagues and Loveland proved it was no fluke by defeating fellow Longs Peak foe Skyline for the state title this past December.
In this day and age where the RPI is king, strength of schedule is one of the main factors that will help teams create a path to earn an at-large bid to the playoffs. Because of this, the two leagues use their overall strength to help each other with crossover games to open the season.
“We play a lot of crossover league games with (the Longs Peak League), and there is a lot of good 4A football in the northern part of the state,” Broomfield coach Blair Hubbard said. “Obviously with Loveland winning it all and going undefeated, we see them Week 2 and we’ll see how we match up with the northern teams in 4A this year.”
So which league is the strongest of the two?
In the Northern League, three teams made the playoffs compared to two from the Longs Peak, and there is more competitive balance within the league. Teams in the bottom of the standings like Windsor and Brighton, who were one win away from a .500 season, played some close games with the teams ahead of them in the standings. Many believe it will be another tight race for the league title.
“I think we will be in the hunt, but I also think Broomfield is going to be pretty good and Mountain View and Windsor will be much improved,” Longmont coach Doug Johnson said. “Greeley West was the top dog last year, so that makes it tough. And Brighton has a new coach, so I’m curious to see them.”
Whereas the Northern League qualified more for the postseason and has more balance against each other, the Longs Peak League makes up for it by having one of the more dominant teams in Class 4A in recent history. The Loveland Indians have won eight or more games in five of the past six seasons under head coach Wayne McGinn and have played for two state championships, winning it all last year. Add in Skyline, who played for the state title and has been a consistent winner under head coach Mike Silva, and the league has two of the best in Class 4A leading the way.
Loveland has a new coach, however, in Jeff Mauck.
While those two teams will draw the most attention, Silva also believes that other teams will emerge as potential playoff teams.
“Monarch can always be counted on as being there, and Fort Collins always seems to have some good athletes, and they have a new coach there,” Silva said. “I think (Loveland, Skyline and Monarch) will be there and Fort Collins will be the question mark to make a run.”
Regardless of where you stand on the two leagues, both should be strong yet again in Class 4A in 2019.
BRINGING IT HOME: RECENT STATE CHAMPS
2018 — Valor Christian (5A), Loveland (4A), Palmer Ridge (3A), La Junta (2A), Limon (1A), Sedgwick County (1A 8-man), Stratton/Liberty (1A 6-man)
2017 — Pomona (5A), Pueblo South (4A), Palmer Ridge (3A), Bayfield (2A), Strasburg (1A), Sedgwick County (1A 8-man), Peetz (1A 6-man)
2016 — Valor Christian (5A), Pine Creek (4A), Pueblo East (3A), La Junta (2A), Strasburg (1A), Sedgwick County (1A 8-man), Hi-Plains (1A 6-man)
2015 — Valor Christian (5A), Windsor (4A), Pueblo East (3A), Bayfield (2A), Buena Vista (1A), Sedgwick County (1A 8-man), Eads (1A 6-man)
2014 — Cherry Creek (5A), Pine Creek (4A), Pueblo East (3A), Brush (2A), Paonia (1A), Caliche (1A 8-man), Arikaree/Woodlin (1A 6-man)