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Fall sports:’s under-the-radar seniors

Here are a few of the Class of 2021 who had sneaky standout seasons

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -October 17, 2020: ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -October 17, 2020: Allison Beasley, of Peak to Peak, finished 3rd during the 3A Colorado State Cross Country Championships at the Norris Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs on October 17, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The fall season officially made it to the finish line with the conclusion of the state football championships last weekend. Doubts that could happen were at the forefront just a few short months ago as questions of uncertainty grew louder by the day.

Would, in fact, big-time 2021 college commitments like Cord Kringlen of Holy Family football and Maddie Kuehl of Silver Creek softball ever see a fitting conclusion to their standout careers? With Kringlen headed to Boise State and Kuehl to Texas Tech, the possibility of postponement and college obligations at some point would clash.

And if pushed back, what would’ve happened to 2020’s newest and brightest stars?

Fairview’s quarterback Liam O’Brien threw 23 touchdowns to just one interception as a first-year starting senior. Would we have seen that in the winter? The spring? Or like so much else in the age of the novel coronavirus, would it never have been?

In this series, we’re taking a look back at an improbable fall that pushed forward despite plenty of pushback. Last week, we dove into the moments that defined a season stranger than anything seen in recent memory.

This week, we’re taking a look at athletes who shined amid playing through a pandemic.

Here are 15 under-the-radar senior athletes from the fall.

Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
Niwot High School senior quarterback Ayden Bartko (12) rushes against Lewis Palmer High School on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Erie Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

Ayden Bartko, Niwot football: Bartko’s talents at the quarterback position can go a bit unnoticed on a team that won just one game in 2020. Over the last two years, though, Bartko has thrown for 24 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards. In the fall, he threw for 11 touchdowns in six games for the Cougars.

Allison Beasley, Peak to Peak girls cross country: Beasley signed her commitment to Western Colorado University in November. But before that, the runner who dipped below 19 minutes multiple times in the fall capped off a strong career with a third-place finish in the Class 3A state race. In the weeks before, she both won league and regionals.

Keegan Caldwell, Mead boys cross country: Caldwell won four invitationals, not including a instrasquad meet, in the condensed slate. He dipped below 16 minutes a number of times and saved his best for last when he ran 15:53 at the 4A state meet in Colorado Springs.

Nathan Churchich, Silver Creek football: Churchich quietly had a monster season for 0-7 Silver Creek. The tight end and outside linebacker had 74 tackles, a sack and three hurries on defense. He also had receptions in five of the team’s seven games.

Peyton Gale, Frederick softball: Gale isn’t a typical under-the-radar prospect as the Northern Colorado commit is a two-time all-region player. But the enormity of her impact might be. The senior hit over .400 for a third straight season, driving in a career-best 29 runs despite the shortened slate. With her leading the way, the Warriors finished second in the 4A Longs Peak League and qualified for the postseason.

Kyle Gordon, Monarch football: Gordon is an intriguing dual-threat quarterback. Out of the double-wing system at Monarch, Gordon directed the way with 442 passing yards and seven scores in six games, adding 105 more on the ground. His quarterback rating of 103.5 this fall was by far the best of his career.

Boulder's Lukas Haug crosses the finish ...
Brad Cochi/
Lukas Haug of Boulder

Lukas Haug, Boulder cross country: Haug was a stud during the fall, capping his career with a fifth-place finish at the 5A state meet. Then last month at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships, he finished 12th with a personal-best time of 14 minutes, 44 seconds. Class 4A state champ Zane Bergen of Niwot was eighth in 14:39.

Liam Huber, Fairview football: Fairview’s defense was so potent at times in 2020, and so full of names going on to the next level, it was easy to gloss over some standout contributors. Huber led the team in tackles with 72 in seven games, eight of them for loss. He also had an interception, forced a fumble, and led the team with three sacks.

Cameron Lupo, Broomfield boys tennis: With COVID-19 not allowing for outside contact in the summer, Lupo talked about volleying with his mom during the offseason. Seemingly an astute plan, he was sharp from the start of the fall and his progression as a senior included a state berth after missing the cut as a junior. Lupo and Fairview’s Luke Silverman were the only No. 1 singles players from the area to make the 5A state field.

Henry Murphy, Fairview boys cross country: Murphy led area runners at the 5A state meet in fourth and just ahead of Haug (fifth), Broomfield’s James Thomas (sixth) and Legacy’s Ryan Montera (seventh). The senior had the 28th-fastest time in the state in 2020, going 15:34 in a win at the Loveland Sweetheart Invite in September.

Danny O’Brien, Longmont boys tennis: O’Brien was the only non-Niwot winner in Class 4A Region 5, rallying to beat Sam Keronen in the No. 2 singles finals. The Longmont senior, also a talented baseball prospect, went 7-1 in duals during the regular season and was a quarterfinalist at state.

Drake Rhodes, Erie football: Erie football has been a mecca for running backs over the last handful of the years. First with all-state back Noah Roper, then standout Mason Veve for the past two seasons. Give it up for the O-line: No one is more under the radar than those in the football trenches, and Rhodes is among them. The 315-pound senior anchored a rushing attack that averaged 1,653 yards on a 7.8 per attempt clip.

Hannah Schweiger, Lyons softball: The heartbeat behind Lyons’ most successful season in nearly two decades was senior captain Schweiger. Behind the plate, she guided a pitching staff to a sub-3 ERA. With a bat in her hands, she hit .481, driving in 26 runs.

Monarch No. 3 singles player Jack ...
Brad Cochi/
Monarch’s Jack Reuter

Jack Reuter, Monarch boys tennis: The Coyotes’ No. 3 singles player was 7-1 in dual matches during the regular season. At the 5A state tournament, he was one of just three singles players (including Fairview’s Silverman and Brody Pinto) to move into the quarterfinals. He eventually bowed out to state runner-up Aram Izmirian of Cherry Creek.

Deklan Wilk, Prospect Ridge Academy football: Wilk had more than double the number of tackles than any other player on roster with 75. He also had two of his team’s nine sacks. The Miners equaled the number of wins they had in a full schedule in 2019 at two. In a tight 20-14 win over Banning Lewis Academy in November, Wilk led the defense with nine tackles and a sack.

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