It’s an unusual season for Class 2A football as three teams from the division go into the new year hoping to defend their state championship. Eaton claimed the Season A state title with a thrilling win over Lamar and then both Manitou Springs (2A) and Rifle (3A) took home championships in Season C. All three teams could contend again but there are several other challengers for the crown.
Colorado Preps takes an in-depth look at the division with a short capsule on each team. Games can begin a week from today (August 26th) and our Scoreboard Show coverage launches the next night from 9:30-11:00pm on the Colorado Preps Network.
ALAMEDA PIRATES: The Pirates went 0-5 last fall thanks to playing in a tough Patriot West League. They struggled on both sides of the ball, allowing 263 points defensively while scoring just 12 all season. The schedule should be a tad easier this fall with teams like Alamosa and Resurrection Christian no longer on the slate. The Pirates have non-league games against Jefferson, Kennedy, George Washington, Valley and the Pinnacle before diving into league play. They’ll return a few key seniors such as two-way lineman JT Trujillo and cornerback Edgar Tomlinson.
DENVER WEST COWBOYS: A 1-4 season wasn’t the vision that the Cowboys had for 2020, but there is some hope they can vastly improve on last year’s performance. They get leading rusher Na’Marcus Williams back a year after he averaged 12.4 yards per carry. Quarterback Carmelo Williams also returns to run the offense, but if last season is any indication, it will be a run-heavy scheme. West could see some young kids step it up defensively as Ahem Hussein had a big showing last year as a freshman. He totaled 18 tackles, four of which were for a loss. West opened last year with a 26-0 win over Littleton and was competitive in losses to Kent Denver and Northfield.
ELIZABETH CARDINALS: After putting together a solid campaign in 2019, the Cardinals took a bit of a step back a year ago. But that setback may only be temporary as they return a lot of valuable talent from last year. Junior quarterback Jason Weber got valuable snaps as he split time with Nick Spidel. With Spidel graduated, Weber should see the bulk of the action and has plenty of playmakers to help him generate points offensively. Senior Jace Perez was second on the team in rushing yards (264) and led all pass catchers with 211 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Cooper Connelley is looking to build off a big freshman year in which he rushed for a team-high 290 yards. He averaged 8.3 yards a carry, a number that could help the Cardinals contend for a league title. Ryan Connelley is back for his senior year after he led the team with 54 tackles.
ENGLEWOOD PIRATES: A slow start to last season may have taken the Pirates out of the playoffs, but their ability to rally and win three straight to end the year might be a more telling sign of what this team is capable of. Senior Gunner Johnson (Labbe) is back under center a year after he tossed 10 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. He also showed off great dual threat ability as he led the team in rushing yards with 164. Hunter Johnson (Labbe) will also be back on the field after he led the teams in receiving yards (215) and interceptions (3) last year. Shawn Fox, the Pirates’ leading tackler in 2020, will also be around to lead the front seven of the defense.
KENT DENVER SUNDEVILS: Opting to play in Season C, the Sun Devils looked far from dominant in 2021. They lost close games to the Academy and Faith Christian before rolling to wins over Denver West and Littleton. But they stumbled to the finish line of the season as they were on the receiving end of blowout losses to The Classical Academy and to Sand Creek. They should rebound this fall as they have a ton of experienced players returning to the squad. Michael Redmond gained valuable reps at quarterback and should get some pressure taken off as Kent’s top three rushers from last year (Finn Cooper, Peter McDermott and Charlie Walker will all return. Cooper could be a player to watch for the season as he also contributed defensively with 20 total tackles.
ARVADA BULLDOGS: Arvada was limited to just three games in 2020, losing them all. The team is heading into the fall looking for more success than that rough three-game stretch in October and get back some players that should help get some wins on the board. Quarterback Cody Nelson heads into his senior year after throwing for 185 yards and Anthony Avitia is back to carry the load on the ground. Mauro Ruiz should shift into a leadership role on defense as he comes back after recording 12 tackles. The Bulldogs could find some early momentum with games against Weld Central and Denver West early in the season.
D’EVELYN JAGUARS: An early season stumble didn’t hold up as the Jaguars won their last two games before their season ended on Oct. 31. The big problem coming into 2020 is that they lost a bit of senior leadership in key positions so this year might serve as a bit of a rebuilding season. Shane Bishop is gone at quarterback after graduating but junior Austin Bushlack did see action at the position in three games last fall. Sam Starkovich leads all returners in rushing yards with 26. The Jags do have pair of receivers that could play a huge role as Mohale Mitchell and Gabe Jackson are back after each averaged over 40 receiving yards per game.
FAITH CHRISTIAN EAGLES: Like Kent Denver, the Eagles had a rare down season, going 2-3 in Season C. And like D’Evelyn, they have to try and improve this fall after losing significant players to graduation. Quarterback Carson Wolf is gone – although incoming senior Noah Sederhall did see action at the position. Wolf was responsible for nearly 500 rushing yards as well as 286 passing yards. Jonah Shelton should be a vital piece of the run game while junior receiver Ethan Kuyper could emerge as a standout receiver in the league. Junior Isaac Olson will be crucial in getting the defense off the field and has shown to be solid in pass coverage as he picked off a pair of passes.
MIDDLE PARK PANTHERS: The Panthers got on the field for just two games last fall, losing both by big margins. They were young a year ago so the standards will definitely be higher this upcoming season. Junior Forest Schofield should have command of the offense at quarterback and senior Tanner Shannon picked up the bulk of the load in the ground game, totaling 79 yards on the year. The Panthers will open the year against Clear Creek and have non-league games against Estes Park, Steamboat Springs and Summit before heading into conference play.
NORTHFIELD NIGHTHAWKS: A Season C playoff team, Northfield had two tough losses against The Classical Academy and Sand Creek before finding its rhythm and winning three of four to end the regular season. The team taking the field this fall will be young as freshmen and sophomores are littered throughout the roster.
PINNALCE TIMBERWOLVES: A rebound season is what the Timberwolves are hoping for after their fall 2020 campaign. They went winless last year and only scored 15 total points on offense. Incoming senior Jason Ulrich got those points on a pair of touchdown passes and he’s hoping to help the Timberwolves make significant strides this year. They should also be a little better defensively as Noah Estes returns for his junior year after recording 11 total tackles. He and Ulrich each had four tackles for losses and their ability to keep the ball behind the line of scrimmage will be greatly valuable to the team’s growth this year.
ALAMOSA MEAN MOOSE: Getting placed in a tough Southwest league last fall didn’t agree with the Mean Moose. Woodland Park and La Junta looked like playoff teams early while Pagosa Springs and Lamar ended up making the eight-team bracket. Alamosa dropped its first three games of the year, ending any playoff hopes the team had. The numbers weren’t all bad though. Kasey Jones threw for 695 yards and six touchdowns and will return as a junior this year. Dante Gonzalez Jr. was perhaps the heart of the offense with 502 rushing yards and six touchdowns and will be a key player to watch throughout the season. Damian Orozco should continue his chase after quarterbacks after totaling five sacks last year.
BAYFIELD WOLVERINES: In perhaps one of the weirdest offseason sequences in the state, Gary Heide had retired as the Bayfield football coach only to get the job back less than four months later. Ethan Grumke had been hired to take over the program but resigned on June 3 without having ever coached a game. So Heide came back. The Wolverines went 0-4 in 2020 but should be a little more polished this fall. Isaac Ross returns at quarterback after completing 54% of his passes for 619 yards and three touchdowns. Cael Schaefer was an all-around threat as he rushed for 97 total yards, recorded 83 receiving yards and led the defense with two interceptions.
MONTEZUMA-CORTEZ PANTHERS: Although they went 2-4 in Season C, the Panthers were competitive through most of the season. Three of their four losses came by just two scores and they shined in a 42-6 win over Salida. They have a lot to make up for as they lost quarterback Ty Blackmer, running back Kyler Krob and receiver Korie Likes to graduation.
PAGOSA SPRINGS PIRATES: It looked like 2020 was going to be a banner year for Pagosa Springs. The Pirates ran the table in the regular season only to get trounced by eventual state champion Eaton in the 2A playoffs. Grant Aucoin has graduated leaving the quarterback spot open and his little brother Aaron could be the next in line. The Pirates also lost Dylan Tressler, who accounted for 1,052 rushing yards and six touchdowns. There were flashes of excellence from a few freshmen last year, but they’ll have to grow up fast to help Pagosa replicate its success from last year.
SALIDA SPARTANS: Season C was a rough stretch for the Spartans, who went 0-6 last year. The good news coming out of it was that a lot of young players saw valuable experience that should benefit them this year. Braden Collins should be back at quarterback, and he gets back eight of nine players that recorded a rushing attempt last year. In all, there were just four seniors the Spartans lost to graduation meaning a more experienced team should be taking the field every Friday night.
BRUSH BEETDIGGERS: Unlucky might be a great word to describe the 2020 season for Brush. They happened to play in the same league as two playoff teams (one of which became the Season A state champion). The Beetdiggers lost those two games and lost a third to Berthoud in double-overtime. This year should be different as Brush returns a big senior class including quarterback Alejandro Maltos-Garcia and running back Cesar Hinojos, who also led the team in tackles last fall. Brush will have big non-league games against Fort Morgan, Severance and Estes Park before diving into Patriot League play.
FORT LUPTON BLUEDEVILS: Fort Lupton struggled through most of the season before finally getting a win over Weld Central. Junior quarterback William Alvarado appears ready to take the job full time after seeing action in six games last year where he threw three touchdowns and two interceptions. Antonio Hernandez leads all returning rushers with 23 total yards while Sergio Hernandez will be a big target for Alvarado as he hauled in six catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
PLATTE VALLEY BRONCOS: In recent years, the Broncos have had a consistent run of success. They went 5-1 in the regular season last year and that included a shootout win over eventual state champion Eaton. They have a siginifcant hole to fill as they lost quarterback Kade McDaniel to graduation, but they get back Logan Curtis (460 rushing yards, six touchdowns) and Devyn Lauer (470 receiving yards, six touchdowns). Lauer was also big in pass protection as he picked off four paces and defensed five others. Throughout the season he scored touchdowns in all three phases of the game as he caught six touchdown passes and also returned a punt, interception and fumble for touchdowns. The Broncos have a tough non-league slate as they’ll face Strasburg and Eaton.
STERLING TIGERS: A promising year ended with heartbreak in the state playoffs. The Tigers entered the season as the defending 2A champions and looked dominant in the regular season before getting stunned by Lamar in the first round of the state tournament. They get their leading passer back in Radek McCracken who threw for 588 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Jackson Keil will likely assume lead rushing duties after averaging 10 yards per carry in 2020. He was also one of the team’s top tacklers, totaling 42 on the season which was top five for all Tigers.
VALLEY VIKINGS: A 3-3 season was on par for what the Vikings have been in recent years. They looked good in wins against D’Evelyn, Weld Central and Fort Lupton but struggled in losses to Platte Valley, Sterling and Monarch. They produced over 300 yards of offense per game, but they’ll have a lot to replace after losing running back Jeff Gore and quarterback Servando Perez (graduation). They’ll get a little bit of experience back as incoming sophomore Julian Ramirez rushed for 180 yards and the senior receiving combination of Jason Gonzales and Giovanni Martinez combined for over 400 receiving yards and hauled in a total of seven touchdown passes.
WELD CENTRAL REBELS: Playing in perhaps the toughest league in the state, the Rebels struggled in 2020. They went winless and produced just over 140 yards of offense per game but now turn the reins over to new coach Harrison Chisum. This year, they’ll likely be a run-heavy team as Zayne Stam returns after leading the team with 293 yards and three touchdowns. Stam was also big on the defensive front as he led the team with 42 tackles, five of which were for a loss.
ACADEMY WILDCATS: After playing a 3A Season C schedule, the Wildcats move back to their comfort zone in 2A. They had several impressive wins last spring and lost to eventual Season C champion Rifle by just eight points in the first round of the state tournament. They should put together a solid 2A campaign after dual threat quarterback Isaiah Eliot threw for 1,037 yards and rushed for another 599. He lost his top receiver in Gabriel Espinoza but has a young, talented core returning this season.
BERTHOUD SPARTANS: A 2-0 start to the year produced high hopes for the Spartans but they finished their regular season slate against three highly talented teams and lost all of those games. They’ll have some experienced players returning to improve on last year’s finish as Tristian Youngblood comes back after throwing for 769 yards and seven touchdowns as just a sophomore. Tanner Coble is also back after leading the team in rushing with 151 yards and two touchdowns. Jack Giles can help his team by continuing to terrorize quarterbacks as he record 3.5 sacks last season.
EATON REDS: After finishing third in their league, the Reds got hot at the right time. They beat Pagosa Springs and Resurrection Christian in the 2A state tournament to advance to the 2A title game where they held off a scrappy Lamar team 28-21. The team did see a lot of turnover as Scott Grable, Salvador Rojas, Juan Maravilla and Tanner True all graduated. Ethan Florez should help the team compete at a high level as he returns after rushing for over 600 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also led the team with 62 tackles. He’ll have a lot of defensive help as juniors Walker Martin and Morgan Tribbett were productive. They recorded 20 and 51 tackles respectively which played a huge role in Eaton’s run to the state championship.
RESURRECTION CHRISTIAN COUGARS: For much of the year, Resurrection Christian looked like the best team in 2A. They scored in bunches and surrendered zero points during the regular season. They just ran into a hot team at the wrong time as they got beat by Eaton in the semifinals. They have plenty of familiar faces returning as Will Schrotenboer is back after throwing for 1,145 yards and 16 touchdowns. He should be one of the top quarterbacks in the state this season. He’ll get his favorite target in Eddie Lemos back. Lemos had 555 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last fall. While the Cougars lost a good chunk of that stingy defense, lineback Justin Hawthorne heads into his senior year after recording 10 tackles for loss last year.
SEVERANCE SILVER KNIGHTS: The Silver Knights showed great promise for such a young program. Big wins over Arvada, Alameda, and Berthoud were a sign that the team is on the right trajectory. They produced over 270 yards of offense per game and have a lot of player returning to build on those numbers. As just a sophomore, Nolan Hertzke threw for 639 yards and had a two to one touchdown to interception ratio. He’ll get help on the ground as Jake Shorb is back after rushing for 371 yards and five touchdowns. Shorb and Caden Donovan shared the team lead in interceptions with three and they’ll be crucial in helping the defense getting off the field without giving up a lot of points.
UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS: The Bulldogs got through the year by alternating wins and losses each week and finished at 3-3 on the year. The run-heavy offense took a couple big losses as Caden Measner and Kyle Jones both graduated after combining for over 800 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Greg Garza will likely get the bulk of the carries. He ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns last year. Defensively, the Bulldogs also have Jack Virgil returning after he record 30 tackles and one interception.
CLASSICAL ACADEMY TITANS: The Titans scored in bunches last spring and won each of their six games by a substantial margin. The only game they lost was the Season C state title game against Rifle, but it was a battle every step of the day. Cade Palmer ran for 346 yards and three touchdowns in that game alone and is looking for a big senior season. Sam Guilez will also be back under center and will also have Matthew Segovia back. Segovia caught nine passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He was one of four players to haul in two touchdown catches from Guilez. Linebacker Josh Snyder should have a breakout season after recording 40 tackles, six for loss.
LA JUNTA TIGERS: In its quest to get back to state championship level play, La Junta will rely on several returning players to get back into the Tri-Peaks league chase. Luke Garner attempted just four passes all season but completed each one for 70 yards and a touchdown. He’ll look to take major strides as a sophomore and will get rushing help from Anthony Torrez who ran for 182 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Garner was also the team’s leading tackler last year, totaling 22.
LAMAR SAVAGES: A trip to the state championship game had been a long time coming for Lamar. The team finished second in the Southwest League but made a stellar run through the 2A playoffs with wins over Sterling and Delta. They were down 7-0 to Eaton at halftime and then battled through a thrilling second half only to come up seven points shy of a state championship. They’ll have a lot of production to replace as the bulk of the offense graduated. Quarterback Zane Rankin and running back Jesus Reyes accounted for over 1,200 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Damian Antonio Ramos added over 400 rushing yards and 285 receiving yards. Deyago Vasquez will likely take over at quarterback. He completed two of four attempts for 20 yards and a touchdown.
MANITOU SPRINGS MUSTANGS: After the school district cancelled the Mustangs fall plans and placed them in Season C, the Mustangs put their heart and soul into the season by capturing the state title. They lost big time players in Joah Armour, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Haas and Jesse Jorstad to graduation and quarterback Caleb Allen will miss the year as he rehabs a torn ACL. But the Mustangs will have plenty of players as Tate Christian and Ethan Boren both return as pass catchers for sophomore quarterback Nate Gentzel. Tyler Maloney will take over at running back and he totaled 377 yards and three touchdowns last spring. Parker Salladay was the team’s leading tackler and he’ll be back to take over the leadership role vacated by Haas.
WOODLAND PARK PANTHERS: A strong start to the 2020 season fizzled out after two games and the Panthers ended the season with a disappointing 2-4 record. In the offseason, coach Joe Roskam resigned and went back to Sierra where he used to coach. His son Braden was the team’s leading rusher last year with 456 yards. Quarterback Mason Pyles will be back as a senior and he had a solid season with 649 passing yards and six touchdowns. Andrew Harper should be the top pass catcher a year after hauling in 11 receptions for 266 yards and two touchdowns. The loss of a big senior class is certainly a big deal, but with a young team and a new coach this could be the start of a new era in Woodland Park.
ASPEN SKIERS: The Skiers moved up to 3A and played in Season C where they put together a respectable season. They went 3-3 in the regular season and grabbed a bid for the state tournament. They got beat by TCA in the first round but lose only four seniors from last year’s roster. Aspen will see a few of the same opponents as last year as Steamboat Springs, Basalt, Rifle and Coal Ridge are all on the schedule.
BASALT LONGHORNS: Close losses to Glenwood Springs and Sand Creek were the only blemishes on a very successful season for the Longhorns. And they’re in line for another one with Gavin Webb returning after rushing for 774 yards and 11 touchdowns. Trevin Beckman will also be a vital player coming back as he rushed for over 300 yards and had 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks on defense. Senior quarterback Matty Gillis graduated, but with the offense based more on the run the Longhorns should still be very productive in moving the ball. They should maintain a solid front defensively which all together bodes well for a team that outscored its opponents 252-89 last season.
COAL RIDGE TITANS: The loss of key seniors could make the 2021 season a challenge for the Titans, but it’s one they’ll take on. Brandon Short will have to standout as a junior after rushing for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Jason McHatten is the team’s returning leading tackler after totaling 33 last fall, one of which came behind the line of scrimmage. They’ll face a schedule that is mostly based on the western slope with the exception of defending 1A champion Limon. Coal Ridge kicks off its season on Sept. 3 against Grand Valley.
DELTA PANTHERS: Delta’s state championship hopes were dashed with the loss of Nolan Bynum. The senior quarterback had thrown for 848 yards and helped the Panthers win their first four games. Now that he’s graduated, Nathan Scharnhorst will likely take the position over. He completed 55% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns to help the Panthers get to the playoffs and get a win over Platte Valley to advance to the 2A semifinals. Timothy Horn led the Panthers in rushing with 652 yards and four touchdowns and will also be a big factor in Delta remaining competitive throughout the season. They’ll likely have a bit of revenge on their mind when they take on Moffat County on Oct. 22. The Bulldogs ended the Panthers bid at a perfect season when they got a 26-20 win.
MOFFAT COUNTY BULLDOGS: A season-opening loss to Meeker didn’t hurt the Bulldogs all that much as they rattled off three straight wins and then benefitted from a forfeit from Middle Park to wrap up the regular season. They were actually the first team to score any points against Resurrection Christian, although they lost the playoff game 41-14. Quarterback Ryan Peck is back in control of the offense and although running back Caleb Frink graduated, Peck will still get plenty of ground support from junior Evan Atkin, who rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns last year. Senior Logan Hafey will provide a major spark on the defensive side of the ball after recorded a team-high five sacks. The Bulldogs have every intention of being a playoff team once again and will get that quest started against Northfield on Aug. 28.
RIFLE BEARS: After claiming the 3A Season C state championship, the Bears wanted to win themselves a fall title this year. They battled through a tough slate of games a year ago and dropped just one when Glenwood Springs edged them out by a touchdown. The Bears got their revenge in the state semifinals, beating the Demons by three in overtime. Quarterback Trey Caldwell is back for his senior season and so is running back Toto Fletchall, who ran for 817 yards and 14 touchdowns. They’ll get plenty of defensive help as well as Javani Gonzalez posted 56 tackles as a sophomore and Josh Avila returns after ripping the ball away from TCA to clinch the 3A title. The Bears will have to try and claim a 2A title under new coach Ryan Whittington.