Fall sports: Breakout athletes from the coverage area

Some names that marvelously crashed the fall scene

Broomfield High School senior starting pitcher ...
Broomfield High School senior starting pitcher Kenzi Garner (17) throws I the first inning against Legacy High School on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Broomfield, Colo.

With the fall season over and all of the delay and postponement drama officially (and very unfortunately) shifted to winter sports, it’s a good time to look back on some of the top breakout performers over the past few months from the area.

Whether it was an athlete who soared above projection or one who simply introduced themselves to the high school scene with a boisterous performance, the unforeseen successes on the field were a nice breather from all the unexpected off it.

In this series, we looked back on the fall’s defining moments in a two-part series that included four team champions from area schools. Three by Niwot — boys tennis, girls cross country and boys cross country — and one from Holy Family, which won its second softball title in three years

We then took a look at the top under-the-radar seniors earlier in the week, and today, we’ll dive into fall athletes that broke into the limelight.

Here are a few of them.

Grayden Bridwell, Skyline football: Bridwell took his turn as the team’s feature running back and ran for more than 100 yards in each of the Falcons’ six games. Only six because Skyline went 5-1 with its lone loss to eventual state champ Loveland and still missed the playoff field. With great vision and strong burst, the senior standout racked up 1,263 yards and seven touchdowns on 140 carries. At nine yards a touch, he finished fourth in the state in rushing. Only Valor Christian five-star back Gavin Sawchuk (9.5 yards per touch) and Fountain-Fort Carson’s Q Jones (9.9) averaged more among Colorado’s top-10 backs.

Skyline's Grayden Bridwell looks for running ...
Brad Cochi/
Skyline’s Grayden Bridwell looks for running room against Brighton during their game played Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.

Tyler Burridge, Dawson boys tennis: The sophomore has been successful in his first two seasons with the Mustangs’ boys tennis program. But he was asked to be a changed player in 2020 — moving from doubles to singles. Promoted from No. 1 doubles, he flourished at No. 2 singles, winning regionals before bowing out in the first round of state.

Gavin Garrettson, Mead football: Garrettson took over as starting quarterback with the graduation of Brady Veltien and led Mead to a 5-1 record. The junior threw for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also had three scores on the ground as the Mavs qualified for the postseason as 3A’s fifth seed before having to forfeit due to COVID-19 exposure.

Kenzi Garner, Broomfield softball: The senior took a larger role on the Eagles’ pitching staff in 2020, going 9-1 while allowing 17 earned runs in 60 1/3 innings. The year before she threw just 24 1/3 innings. Garner upped her batting average, too — by 66 points, in fact — hitting .448 with four homers while leading the team with 29 RBIs. She along with Bryna Kapelke and 5A Front Range League player of the year Hadlee Reichert were also invited to play in the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports’ 5A All-State Game.

Liam Gray, Holy Family football: Gray can rip field goals from long range, crush kickoffs out of the end zone … he’s cool, calm, accurate — and really, he’s been that way for Holy Family’s kicking game for three-plus seasons. Gray instead makes the list for what he did for he did as Holy Family’s big-play receiver. Gray had nearly double the receiving yards (503) and more than twice as many touchdowns (11) than he did in 2019 (five), and that’s in two less games. His yards per reception was a ridiculous 21.9.

Holy Family High School senior receiver ...
Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
Holy Family High School senior receiver Liam Gray (31) pulls down a touchdown reception past Lutheran High School defenders on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, in Parker, Colo.

Ben Harding, Silver Creek boys golf: The sophomore finished runner-up in the 4A Northern Colorado Athletic Conference. He then shot a 79 followed by an 80 at the state tournament in Colorado Springs to take 18th. Add it all up and Harding looks to have supplanted his position as one of 4A’s brightest contenders over the next two seasons.

Caleb Johnson, Longmont football: Johnson soared in his junior season, hauling in 77 passes for 832 yards. That’s a far rise from his sophomore campaign, where he had 47 catches for 428 yards in five less games. Johnson’s quarterback, Keegan Patterson, may be a breakout performer in his own right after upping his 2019 completion percentage and throwing for nearly 500 more yards in five less games. Patterson looked for Johnson often in the fall as the two connected at least 13 times in five of their six games.

Alexandra Kennedy, Skyline softball: The sophomore hit over .400 for a second straight season. Her breakout instead came on the mound. After amassing a double-digit ERA as a freshman, Kennedy went 5-4 with a 4.16 mark over 64 innings this fall. In just 7 1/3 innings more than 2019, she had 26 more punchouts, finishing with 59.

Cole LaCrue, Broomfield football: The sophomore took over the starting quarterback position after Zachary Kapushion transferred to South Paulding High School in Georgia and helped direct the Eagles back into the postseason. He completed 67% of his passes and finished with 1,017 yards and 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. On the ground, he led the team with five scores.

Jackson Lewis, Boulder boys tennis: Lewis beat out everyone inside the program, earning the No. 1 singles spot for Boulder. With him leading the way, the Panthers went from winless in 2019 to 6-1 in duals this fall. At the start of the season, he fell to Broomfield ace Cameron Lupo, then won five straight in dual play. The freshman moves well across the court, has nice awareness, and while this being just his first year of high school, his ceiling — as well as Boulder’s tennis program — looks awfully high going forward.

Caleb Michaels, Monarch boys golf: The sophomore ace proved to be one of the best golfers in the area this fall, starting with a 2-under 70 win at the Broomfield Two-Man Best Ball tournament in August. There was promise surrounding Michaels coming into the year and he delivered … and then some. He bounced back on the second day of state to finish 17th in 5A.

Monarch's Caleb Michaels tees off on ...
Brad Cochi/
Monarch’s Caleb Michaels tees off on No. 10 at The Club at Rolling Hills during the second round of the Class 5A boys golf state championships on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.

Ryan Montera, Legacy boys cross country: Montera won four invitationals and a dual, running under 15 minutes twice in the fall. The Legacy senior has been a steadfast performer throughout his career, but his breakout came at the state meet as he moved up 22 spots from 2019 to take seventh in a time of 15:57.

Liam O’Brien, Fairview football: The epitome of a breakout star, O’Brien threw for 2,355 yards and 23 touchdowns to just one pick in his first year as the Knights’ starter. The senior showed strong pocket presence but also showed his ability to burn defenses with his legs, where he totaled 331 yards and five touchdowns. The prized lacrosse recruit certainly proved he should be viewed as a college football prospect as well.

Mia Prok, Niwot girls cross country: The freshman won every invitational she took part in during her debut season until she got to state and nationals, where she settled for — pfft! — second. At state, she trailed fellow-frosh Bethany Michalak of Air Academy by a mere three seconds. And at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships, she finished with the best 2020 time from a Colorado girls high school runner in 16:56. The mark is also the nation’s fifth best this fall. It’s tough to know what you’re going to get with a freshman, especially in a season as strange as this one. But Prok, who was a standout in middle school, made the jump seamlessly and should be among the state’s and country’s best runners for the next three years.

Niwot High School freshman runner Mia ...
Tim Hurst/Staff Photographer
Niwot High School freshman runner Mia Prok poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Niwot, Colo.

Emily Sauvageau, Mead softball: The junior hit over 150 points above her average in her first two seasons, batting .481 in the fall. She had five home runs in 73 plate appearances after having just one in her previous 127. The growth of Sauvageau was among the reasons the Mavs have been able to rise from a team with a losing record just two seasons ago to a state finalist in 2020.

Cole Spradlin/Ty Stroud, Centaurus boys tennis: The junior and sophomore, respectively, took second in 4A Region 5 that was mostly dominated by Niwot, and secondly by Longmont. Their state tournament bid put the Warriors back in the 4A field after they didn’t send anyone in 2019. Their strong performances throughout the year were among the reasons for Centaurus’ 5-2 record in duals.

James Thomas, Broomfield boys cross country: Thomas had a solid first month of the season. Then he exploded late, finishing sixth at the 5A state meet followed by a fourth-place finish at the Colorado Classic, where he put down a personal-best time of 15:06. That mark is the 13th fastest by a high schooler in the state this season.

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -October 17, 2020: ...
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -October 17, 2020: James Thomas, of Broomfield, during the 5A Colorado State Cross Country Championships at the Norris Penrose Events Center in Colorado Springs on October 17, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Luke Weber, Niwot boys tennis: Niwot’s tennis team is usually so loaded that calling someone in it a “breakout performer” is rare. But here we are. Weber rose from the No. 2 doubles team that took fourth in 2019 all the way to a state champion in No. 3 singles. With titles from him and ace Neil Wilcox, the Cougars won their first team title in program history.