After his team took undefeated Smoky Hill to the brink Thursday night, Boulder coach Ryan Bishop seemed upbeat while taking an impromptu interview on his drive home.
The Panthers’ 43-35 defeat dropped them to 2-4 on the season, the same mark they were last year through six games.
But things around the program still feel a bit different in 2019.
The second-year coach said he told his players in the locker room postgame: “I couldn’t be more proud as a coach.”
“In my 14 years at Boulder High, I’ve continued to see the program get better,” Bishop said. “Tonight, we turned a corner I think, deciding we can play with the best teams in the state.
“Now it’s just a matter of finding a way to win those winnable games.”
Two of Boulder’s last three games have come against 2018 playoff teams, and against both Denver East and Smoky Hill the Panthers took a lead in the second half but couldn’t close.
They were up 14-12 against the Angels two weeks ago before falling 28-14. And Thursday, they were up 28-21 before the Buffaloes rallied.
They’ll look to snap a three-game skid when they travel to Prairie View next Friday.
When Fairview’s offense is rolling, it looks like it’s in a dead sprint for 50 points. By halftime. And at the center of it, quarterback Aidan Atkinson is owning defenses on his way to owning state records.
For the Knights to go where they want to go, though, they know that can’t be their sole identity Defensive end Brayden Wood wants the same dominating reputation on the other side of the ball.
“Before our scrimmage against Bear Creek before the season, I got in front of the whole team and said I’m setting a challenge for this year, I want the defense to headline this team,” Wood said. “I’m tired of the offense having all this fame and glory. I’ve been a starter since freshman year and all the hype has been toward the offense.”
The 247Sports three-star recruit has at least one advocate, too.
“Defense wins championships,” Atkinson said after the Knights’ defense came up big in the fourth quarter to beat Rock Canyon on Sept. 27. “They did a hell of a job.”
Wood has led the way for a defense that has shown signs of dominance, but whose potential is still a bit hazy. The Knights held strong against Boulder, ThunderRidge, Doherty, Rock Canyon and Legacy. But Week 2, they allowed 50 points to Ralston Valley — a mark albeit skewed by eight offensive turnovers.
The potential is there, promised Wood.
“It’s going to come down to film study, our mentality, our mindset, how far we want to go, our prep for teams, how well we take care of our bodies,” the junior said. “It’s going to come down to how much we want it because I truly believe this defense can stand up against any offense in the state.”
As for Wood, he is already one of the state’s prized 2021 recruits. He said his current top schools of interest are USC, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona State and CU.
More hype and headlines
Perhaps as an homage to the 1999 film “Office Space”, Altitude posted a video on Twitter last week showing Nuggets mascot Rocky and Avalanche mascot Bernie smashing a DISH Network receiver with a sledgehammer. Then the Nuggets’ beloved mascot appears to become so irate he begins punching the receiver until he’s finally detained by the 6-foot-5, Avs’ St. Bernard.
Yes, pro sports may seem a little strange right now as a dispute over money between Altitude and Comcast/DISH/DirecTV has blocked fans from watching their favorite teams at home.
In the meantime, it’s the perfect chance to get out to a few of high school’s best offerings.
In the 5A Front Range League, here are a few league races and marquee matchups to pay attention to this week:
In volleyball, Broomfield will look to keep its undefeated season alive with matches against Fossil Ridge and Monarch. Coach Bob Knox’s team beat Legacy and Greeley West on consecutive nights this past week to move to 12-0.
In softball, Loveland had a two-game lead in the league standings as of Friday night. The Indians beat Legacy 2-1 Thursday to move to 8-0 in league.
And in soccer, Broomfield will meet Monarch Thursday, pinning longtime Eagles coach Jim Davidson against former player and assistant coach Kyle Reddy, who took over the Coyotes this fall.
The two’s relationship goes deeper than soccer, they say.
In an interview last month, Reddy called Davidson his mentor and expressed his gratitude. Davidson, meanwhile, said watching Reddy mold into a leader of a program reminds him why he became a coach in the first place.
“When you have former players that want to coach and teach, and do it for the right reasons, it reminds you why you got into this business and why you do what you do,” Davidson said. “It’s fun to win, no question about it. But when you have an influence on players like that, that’s way more important.
“It’s going to be fun to play against him but at the same time it’s hard to play against former players and people that have worked for you. And Kyle did both.”