League and team outlook
Teams and trends: Fairview, Fossil Ridge, Horizon, Legacy, Poudre and Rocky Mountain. Fairview ran away with the 2020 North League title with an undefeated 5-0 record as Fossil Ridge and Legacy lagged slightly behind at 3-1. Fairview also won the league title in 2018 and 2019 when it was part of the Front Range League.
2020 league leaders: Passing — Liam O’Brien, Fairview (2,355 yards); Rushing — Sean Kidd, Rocky Mountain (789 yards); Receiving — Grant Page*, Fairview (815 yards); Scoring — Braelon Tate*, Legacy (78 points); Touchdowns — Tate (13); Total yards — O’Brien (2,686 yards); Tackles — Caden Dollar, Fossil Ridge (82 total tackles); Sacks — Dollar (5.0); Interceptions — Jon Barry, Fairview (5); Kick scoring — Michael Dickinson-Tooman*, Fairview (27 points).
Numbers game: Fairview boasted a prolific offense in 2020, led in large part by now-graduated quarterback Liam O’Brien. The returners, however, still pack a serious punch. Grant Page, now a senior, collected a second-best 815 receiving yards in all of Class 5A, just behind Smoky Hill’s 866 from Anthony Harris Jr. He easily beat out the likes of every Cherry Creek and Valor Christian player, who played two games or one game more than the Knights last season.
* — eligible to return
Coach: Tom McCartney
The Scorecard: The Knights ended their 2020 season atop the Class 5A North League after going undefeated in conference play. That effort earned them the No. 6 bid to the state playoffs, where No. 3 Legend ended their run. Fairview returns a number of strong starters in senior WR/DB Grant Page, senior OLs Jack Remington and Nik Worster, junior OLs Leaf Bruno and Jack Lillie, senior DL Fox Martin and junior LB Zach Lewis. Last season, the Knights relied heavily on the passing game as they racked up 2,355 receiving yards from senior quarterback Liam O’Brien. Page, his top receiver by far, collected 815 yards on 58 receptions and nine touchdowns. Lewis led the defense with 63 total tackles.
Coach: Corey Heinz
The Scorecard: The Lightning competed well in a stacked North League in 2020, going 4-3 (3-1 league) in the truncated fall season that saw some 5A teams deferring to the spring. They’ll return strong players in seniors OL Luke Biller, RB Braelon Tate, LB Mike McCarty, DB Mason Dickerson, DB Braden Keith, and juniors OL Noah Williams, WR Brandon Sanchez, WR Will Thurston, WR Cam Johnson, DL Gage Vermillion and DL Lorenzo Talcott. “I am really excited to play a normal fall year and to have students and fans in the stands,” Heinz said. “We got to spend the time necessary this summer and camp to gel as a team.”
Metro 1 League
Teams and trends: Adams City, Boulder, Fort Collins, Mountain Range, Northglenn and Westminster. Boulder came out on top of the six teams that deferred to play during Season C last year and rode that success all the way to the Class 5A state title game, where the Panthers ultimately lost to a stronger Far Northeast.
2020 league leaders: Passing — Andrew Seest*, Fort Collins (1,008 yards); Rushing — Max Jones*, Fort Collins (535 yards); Receiving — Drake Arthur, Boulder (350 yards); Scoring — Louden Harger*, Fort Collins (59 points); Touchdowns — Dorion McGarity*, Fort Collins (7); Total yards — Seest (1,146 yards); Tackles — Arthur (83 total tackles); Sacks — Julian Mechels*, Boulder (11); Interceptions — Tristan Langenegger*, Boulder (5); Kick scoring — Harger (41 points).
Numbers game: Boulder’s defense soared far above its opponents during Season C schedule and, as it turns out, all of the competition between fall and spring ball. Two standout Panthers, then-senior Elijah Graham and then-junior Julian Mechels, led all of Class 5A with 11 sacks apiece. While Graham is no longer with the Panther defense, Mechels will return to the field like the wrecking ball he was last year. No other player in 5A exceeded nine sacks.
* — eligible to return
Coach: Craig Van Patten
The Scorecard: The Panthers return to the field following a short offseason, after having finished as Season C’s Class 5A state runner-up. While they lost some firepower in quarterback Alvin Rodriguez, among others, they bring back a number of top performers in seniors DE/WR/RB Julian Mechels, QB/S/DB Tristan Langenegger, RB/LB Declan Culberson, OL/DL Josh Clark, WR/DB Ty Chandler, WR/DB Luke Zana, and juniors DB/RB Ethan Kunkel and OL/DL Emerson Heine. “I am very excited to coach this team and continue the momentum that we had during the spring season,” Van Patten said. “We had a short but productive offseason. Our kids worked hard in the weight room and I’m excited to see how that translates to the field.”
Bringing it home: recent state champions
2020 — Cherry Creek and Far Northeast (5A fall and spring, respectively); Loveland and Thomas Jefferson (4A); Durango and Rifle (3A); Eaton and Manitou Springs (2A); Limon (1A); Sedgwick County and Hoehne (1A 8-man); Fleming (1A 6-man)
2019 — Cherry Creek (5A); Pine Creek (4A); Palmer Ridge (3A); Sterling (2A); Limon (1A); Sedgwick County (1A 8-man); Fleming (1A 6-man)
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)