This time last year, former Fairview quarterback Liam O’Brien had only shown a glimpse of what he could do on the football field.
Known more as a lacrosse star then, O’Brien had been the backup signal caller as a sophomore and junior for Knights coach Tom McCartney and was only now getting his chance to lead.
In the months leading into the season, the narrative about O’Brien coming out of Fairview’s camp centered around his smarts — which also led to Ivy League offers for his lacrosse services — and his sound decision-making under center. Physically speaking, he touted a nice arm and had the ability to scramble effectively out of danger — something he’d flashed as much in his postseason start in 2019 and then some more in ensuing summer workouts and 7-on-7 tournaments.
His best came as the football season finally got underway last October. In 2020, O’Brien was among the biggest breakout athletes in the area with 23 passing touchdowns, five running scores and one interception in seven games.
He was named the BoCoPreps offensive player of the year and went on to play quarterback at secondary school, Deerfield Academy, where he currently has offers from Football Championship Subdivision schools Holy Cross and Dartmouth.
Which area athlete could see the same rise in 2021?
The BoCoPreps lookahead to the fall season continues with our list of 10 athletes you’ll know much better by season’s end. Here are a few of the biggest potential stock risers.
Josh Dunn, Broomfield (football): Dunn, the do-it-all athlete for the Eagles, lettered in four sports last year. Four. And for as much as he can cover for the school’s entire athletic scene, his reach on the football field appears far and wide, too. The senior wide receiver and defensive back was stout for the Eagles’ shutdown defense in 2020, and offensively, he led the team with 452 yards and had seven of its 10 receiving touchdowns.
Gavin Garrettson, Mead (football): Garrettson shined in his first season starting under center for Mead, throwing for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns. With another year under his belt — not to mention, a full schedule in front of him — his play and notoriety should further be on the upswing as the Mavericks look to make another run at being 3A’s best.
Christopher Gunlikson, Niwot (boys golf): Gunlikson looked at times to be one of the best golfers in Class 4A last fall. He finished tied for second in the Longs Peak League, only behind BoCoPreps player of the year Jake Chesler of Frederick, then placed 57th at the 4A state tournament. Expect the latter to rise this fall.
Alexandra Kennedy (softball): Kennedy was the most productive player on an 8-8 Skyline team a year ago and there’s reason to believe she can blossom into an even bigger standout as a junior. Doing it on the mound and from the plate last fall, Kennedy had a 4.16 ERA with 59 Ks in 64 innings and hit .457 in 49 plate appearances. While Kennedy was at Skyline last year, the now-Frederick student’s (per Frederick AD Ty Gordon) 2021 softball home is unofficial.
Sophie Kubiak, Monarch (volleyball): Kubiak, despite being undersized, is absolutely electric on the court. Albeit while on this stock risers’ list, she has already garnered plenty of attention in the volleyball world as she’s committed to Stanford’s beach team. As for her high school career, the best may still be in store. Due to team quarantines last year, she was reduced to playing just 27 sets, and still had 61 kills, 137 digs and 25 aces.
Megan Leick, Longmont (softball): Leick is among the most talented softball prospects in the area and will ultimately gain more recognition in the fall. Last year, she hit .600 in the shortened season with 21 hits in 35 at-bats. As part of it, she had three games with three or more hits.
Jackson Lewis, Boulder (boys tennis): Lewis dazzled at No. 1 singles as a freshman, winning five of the seven matches listed on MaxPreps. If he’s back for his sophomore year, Lewis should be among the top aces in the area and could make a run at qualifying for the 5A state tournament.
Isabelle Martinez, Silver Creek (softball): Maddie Kuehl, the power hitting ace pitcher for Silver Creek in 2020, has graduated. So, Martinez, the promising infielder for the Raptors, may be the program’s next biggest thing. An all-league player a year ago, Martinez hit .462 and drove in nine runs.
Michael McCarty, Legacy (football): While BoCoPreps first teamers Braelon Tate and Mason Dickerson are back for the Lightning and should be among their most talented players, expect plenty of noise from McCarty, too. The linebacker led the team with 61 tackles in seven games last year, three of them for loss.
Cruz Zamudio, Frederick (football): Zamudio had some nice varsity production as a freshman, and then led the team with 343 rushing yards on just 50 carries as a sophomore. Another big leap could be in the mix this fall. So far in his career, Zamudio, listed as a running back and defensive back a year ago, is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and nine yards per reception. He also has 22 tackles and two pass breakups.
School info on Alexandra Kennedy, who played at Skyline last year, has been updated.