Colorado Preps continues its extended look at the 2021 football with capsules on every Class 1A team scheduled to compete this year.  This coverage will extend into every class before the official start of the season next week.  Teams are divided by conference as league champions earn automatic bids to the state playoffs in November.



BURLINGTON COUGARS:   The tradition rich Cougars look to bounce back from a winless 2020 where COVID reduced their schedule to just four games.  John Bailey takes over the reins from Mick David and will rely on many newcomers this year as the Cougars graduated a starting quarterback and top rusher.  Ty Marcum (17-166) returns at wide receiver.  Treece Hines and Dominic Conrardy were second and fourth in tackles as underclassmen and may be asked to do even more in 2021.

HOLYOKE DRAGONS:  Despite scrambling to find opponents at times, the Dragons went 5-1 during regular season play to earn another playoff bid.  They then fell to eventual state champion and league rival Limon in the quarterfinals but the Dragons return a large contingent from the club including an offensive line that could feature five seniors.  Miles Sprague also returns for his fourth year as starting quarterback after running for 871 yards and throwing for 528 last season.  Carlos Legarreta, Tyson Mosenteen and Wyatt Sprague are other key returnees at the skill positions.  Leading tackler Joey Beckner graduated but the next six on the list all return.  Both Spragues and Legarreta are on that list along with Aidyn Shaffer, Cade Killin and Kaison Kinnie.  Killin and Shaffer could anchor the lines as both were selected as an honorable mention all-state member in 2020.

LIMON BADGERS:  The Badgers are the defending state champions and winner of the last three crowns in Class 1A.  They finished last season with a perfect 7-0 season and toppled Strasburg to win the championship.  They return starting QB Trey Hines who threw for 485 yards and ran for 206.  Jeremiah Leeper returns after pacing the Badgers with 839 yards and nine touchdowns.  Th offense will need to replace Kory Tacha, Alex Car, and Caden Smithburg.  Chance Cannon returns up front as a first-team all state offensive lineman and Eli Weisensee is back as the starting center.  Ky Bandy picked up a team best 77 tackles last year and returns to lead the defense.  Another key returnee on that side of the ball is Brady Rockwell (27 tackles).

WIGGINS TIGERS:  Despite a strong opening win over Bennett, the Tigers finished just 2-5 a year ago and outside the playoff picture.  More wins are expected this year with the return of QB Cole Kerr who paced the team with 747 yards passing and 827 on the ground.  He was involved in 13 touchdowns overall.  Omar Perez (11 catches) and Trey Huwa (9) were second and third in receptions last Fall.  On defense, the top three tacklers are expected back as Mohamed Ibrahim (60), Pepper Rusher (46) and Kerr (36) were all underclassmen.

WRAY EAGLES:  Tyler Collins generated over 24-hundred yards of offense at quarterback last year but after losing him to graduation, the Eagles must find a successor for the 2021 season.  Those duties will fall on Jaden Dodsworth who missed last year to injury but took quite a few snaps during his sophomore season.  He’s also accustomed to pressure situations as he played a key role in Wray’s state basketball championship run last March.  Returning weapons on the outside include Bryant Schoental and Ryce Peterson.  Defensively, the Eagles welcome back the likes of Brady Collins, Tell Wade, Payton Wade and Michael Buoy.  Wade was named to the all state second team a year ago.

YUMA INDIANS:  Cody Robinson anchored the offense last year in leading the Indians to a 4-3 record and he returns for his senior year.  The quarterback scored 15 touchdowns on the ground and totaled 1,049 yards rushing.  Backfield mates Yahir Trejo (275 yards) and Ethan Goeglin (197) also return.  Robinson and Trejo should also lead the defense along with returnees John Smith, Jose Ruiz and Lars Sims.



ESTES PARK:  The spring campaign was very good for the Bobcats who recorded five wins and a playoff victory over Grand Valley 40-27.  Success came from throwing the football where Collin Reetz threw for 2,332 yards and 22 touchdowns in just eight games.  He’s back for a senior season but his top four receivers all graduated.  The top returnee on the outside is Jonah Burdick who caught 13 passes for 140 yards.  Burdick is also a key returnee on defense along with Barry Johnson who was third on the team with 41 tackles as a junior.

FLATIRONS ACADEMY:  The Bison are coming off by far their most successful football in school history as only a missed two-point conversion in overtime kept them from a state championship.  The exciting 31-30 loss to Manitou Springs also kept the Bison from a perfect 8-0 spring season.  New players will have to emerge as Jacob Dube, Trevor Ryan, Deverick Dow and Noah Rumbyrt all graduated.  Trenton Rowan caught 26 passes and was second in tackles as a junior and he will be looked up on the leader of the team this year.  Other returning contributors include Nolan Sheppard and Devin Glowicki.

HIGHLAND HUSKIES:  Early losses to Holyoke and Limon prevented the Huskies from extending their playoff string but they can build on finishing 2021 with five consecutive wins.  Leading rusher and tackler Holden Morgan along with the top three receivers on offense have graduated but the Huskies welcome back senior QB San Hzindil.  He threw for 836 yards and six touchdowns last season.  Senior Jeivan Gonzalez earned second team all-state honors as an offensive lineman last season.  Fellow seniors Caden Polk, Clayton Wood and Greg Coy are the top returnees on defense.

PROSPECT RIDGE:  Wins have been hard to come by for the Miners in the recent past, but they scored two in 2020 downing Pinnacle in their opener and then Banning Lewis toward the close of the regular season.  To build on the win numbers, the Miners will need some younger players to step up as the starting quarterback, top two rushers and top receiver all graduated.  Elik Hrivank may be the new quarterback as he threw for 112 yards on just 15 attempts as a sophomore.    Calbe Perruzza latched onto nine passes last year which was second best on the team.  Tyler Beverigdge, Teddy Cundiff and David Castro all return defensively after ending 2020 among the top five tacklers on the club.

STRASBURG INDIANS:  Has reached the last five state championship games with titles in 2016a dn 2017.  They suffered heavy losses on offense as the leading passer (Collin Russell), top two rushers (Tyler Graff and Russell) and top three receivers (AJ Hemphill, Graff and Jack Swanson) all graduated.  Tallin Hall (294 yards) should get plenty of carries on offense this year and sophomore Landen Martin is expected to be the starting quarterback.  Matthias Brown (66) is the only returnee among the top six tacklers back from last year.



BENNETT TIGERS:  The Tigers won five of seven games in 2020 5-2 but missed out on the playoffs as the field was reduced from 16 to just eight clubs.  They have several holes to fill on offense as the top passer, top six rushers and top four receivers all graduated this past Spring.  The defense could be solid from day one with the return of Isaak Copeland (40 tackles) and Johnathan Johnson (38).  Carson Hawkins and Connor Rayburn each intercepted two passes as sophomores.

CLEAR CREEK GOLDDIGGERS:  A very young team looks to improve on the experience gained during a winless 2020 season.  Junior QB Bode Baker returns as does classmate Evan Brandt.  They both saw extensive playing time in the backfield last year as did senior Michael Hillman.  Brandt (41 tackles) is also the lone return among the top six tacklers on defense a year ago.

JEFFERSON SAINTS:  The Saints finished 1-4 last year with the best efforts coming over the first two weeks of the season.  They fell to Banning Lewis (27-16) in the opener and then topped Pinnacle (47-7) for their lone victory.

MANUAL THUNDERBOLTS:   A 3-3 record put the Thunderbolts into the spring playoffs where they lost to eventual state champion Manitou Springs 42-8 in the quarterfinals.  Even more wins could come in 2021 as the Thunderbolts return a good list of skill players including Donovan Jenkins and Jewel Cameron who combined for over 600 yards passing last season.  Cameron also led the club with 512 yards on the ground.  Jemir Wyatt also returns after leading the team with 48 tackles as a sophomore.  Elijah White and Dai’Shaun Long are also back on that side of the ball.

PLATTE CANYON HUSKIES:  Following a rough 0-2 start with blowouts against Strasburg and Yuma, the Huskies finished strong in winning three of their last four games.  They hope to carry that momentum into 2021 and contend for a playoff berth.  To do so, they will rely on the running of Allen Hardey (366) and Sam Patterson (204) who combined for 570 yards a year ago.  Hardey also topped the defense with 57 tackles.  Kamron Skouge is also expected to have a good campaign after picking up 27 tackles as a freshman.

SHERIDAN RAMS:  Due to COVID, the Rams could not field a team for either the 2020 Fall or Spring campaign so they will see their first gridiron action since 2019.  That year, the Rams collected four wins including a nice 3-2 run in their conference.  Sophomores on that team, who could now be seniors, ran the ball just one time and caught six passes on offense.  Donaivin Ruiz (30) and Dylan Barczak (29) combined for 59 tackles that year but only Ruiz is currently listed on this year’s roster.



BANNING LEWS STALLIONS:  The Stallions made it through their first year of varsity football with an even 3-3 record including wins over Jefferson, Pinnacle and Rye.  They accomplished though wins with very few seniors on the roster so more wins could be coming their way in 2021.  QB Kaden Levi threw for 797 yards and 12 scores as a junior; Ryan Fletcher gained 367 yards rushing as a sophomore and Daniel Pachecho caught 12 passes as a junior.  Nate Early (35) was the top tackler on the team as a junior.

ELLICOTT THUNDERHAWKS:  The ThunderHawks waited until the Spring to play last year but COVID still limited them to just three games on the field last year.  They finished 0-4 but were very competitive in losses to St Mary’s (44-24) and Manual (46-20).   Seniors combined for 630 yards rushing last season but the ‘Hawks welcome back sophomores Jonathon Sveen (143 yards rushing) and Jedrek Howarth (90 yards passing) who saw considerable action as freshmen.

PEYTON PANTHERS:  A loss to Florence early in the season likely prevented the Panthers from grabbing another playoff berth.  They also lost to Colorado Springs Christian (41-0) in the extra game afforded to non-playoff teams but still picked up solid victories over Center, Rye, Trinidad and Rocky Ford to post another winning record.  The Panthers graduated leading rusher Brandon Hussey (581 yards) but much of the remaining backfield should return in 2021.  That group includes the running tandem of Dresden Howeth (206 yards) and Robert Graham (173) along with QB Gunnar Graham who tossed five TDs as a sophomore.  Zak Cobb (38) and Howeth (34) were also 2-3 in tackles behind Hussey last season.  Cobb received honorable mention all-state honors as a junior.

ROCKY FORD MELONEERS:  Facing a brutal schedule, the Meloneers collected just one-win last Fall in beating Trinidad by forfeit.  Losses came against traditional powers Centauri, Florence, Bennett, CS Christian and Peyton.  QB Shaun Gonzales (372 yards passing) returns for his senior year and is joined by his top three receivers from last year in Dezmon Reyes, Joe Zamora & Jasha Smith who combined for 24 catches as sophomores.  Those three also topped the defensive effort with 63 combined tackles.

TRINIDAD MINERS:  The 2020 season was not kind to the Miners as they failed to dent the scoreboard in a 0-6 campaign.  COVID caused the program to forfeit three games as well so they are basically starting anew in the 2021 season.  Overall, the Miners have just one win in three years as they downed Ellicott in 2019.



CENTAURI FALCONS:  The Falcons were dominant through last season outscoring their first seven opponents 368-32 before a frustrating 27-14 loss to Strasburg in the state semifinals.  Mason Claunch, who ran for 1,050 yards in eight games, is the top returnee.  He scored 22 of the team’s 31 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore.  Deven Brady (239) and Zach Buhr (208) also return in what should be a loaded backfield.  Brady Holman (25 receptions and 6 TD’s) is also back at wide receiver.  Claunch (99), Buhr (91), Brady (66) and Holman (65) were also the top five tacklers in 2020 and that group aslo gets back the likes of Ben Tailleur (60) and Byron Shawcroft (42).

CENTER VIKINGS:  Covid reduced the Vikings 2020 season to just three games and even though they failed to record a win, they pushed Ignacio through four quarters in a tight 27-18 decision.  Abraham Echauri (185) and Cael Ruggles (143) combined for 328 yards rushing in just 60 attempts last season and will get many more opportunities in 2021.  Ruggles also recorded 34 tackles to top the defense while Joaquin Moreno was third with 18 as a sophomore.

DEL NORTE TIGERS:  The Tigers managed just 30 points over five games last season but all 30 came in a strong win over Dolores.  It was their only victory of the season.  Leaders this year could include Nickolas Atencio, Malachi Gallegos, Cody Worz, Stone Thompson, Brennan Velasquez, Carter Simon, Gage Trujillo and Ryder Whitehorn.

DOLORES BEARS:  Playing mostly underclassmen, the Bears managed just eight points last season while finishing without a win (0-5).  For the 2021 season, they are dropping into the eight man ranks and will compete there on a junior varsity schedule.  Some names to watch are Wyatt Koskie, Caleb Montoya, Chase Phillpot and Ty Gaddis.

IGNACIO BOBCATS:  The shortened 2020 Fall campaign was a good one for the Bobcats as they started 2-0 and finished above five hundred at 3-2.  Gabe Tucson tossed 10 TD passes as a junior and ended the year with 725 yards through the air.  Two of his top three receivers graduated but that may mean more chances for the duo of Shawn Campbell (10 receptions) and John Riepel (8).

MONTE VISTA PIRATES:  Five wins in seven games were not enough to get the Pirates into the reduced playoff bracket last Fall but despite losing their leading rusher (Cobi Garcia) to graduation, there is a good nucleus expected back.  Leading that group is Colton Mellott who threw for 458 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.  Hunter Pacheco (191) and Khegan Gunter (184) were also 2-3 in rushing yards last year and together should get more than the 62 carries they had in 2020.  Jack Noonan had 55 tackles and six sacks as a freshman and could step into the leadership role defensively this year.  Other key returnees there include Pacheco (43 tackles) and DeAngelo Archuleta (23 tackles).  Dusty Duran returns to the offensive and defensive lines where he collected honorable mention all-state honors a year ago.



BUENA VISTA DEMONS:  The Demons were expected to have a strong spring campaign and met those expectations with a 6-1 record.  Their lone loss came in the state semifinals where they fell short to eventual state champion Manitou Springs 20-17.  Haden Camp threw for 678 yards and 11 TDs as a sophomore and was also third in rushing with 368 yards.  Classmate Jacob Phelps led the ground game with 408 yards.  Top receiver Tucker Storms (14 receptions) is also back on the field.  Five of the top six tacklers from last year’s group also returns including Seth Moss, Ethan Flavin, Elijah Evans, Storms and David Arellano.

COLORADO SPRINGS CHRISTIAN LIONS:  It was quite the senior class that graduated last Spring for the Lions as they lost several two, three and even four years starters.  Now some new faces will need to step for the Lions to stay in the playoff chase.  Daniel Eng, who caught a team best nine passes last season, is the top returnee on offense.  Shane Carlson was fourth in tackles as a sophomore and classmates Alex Niederhauser and Casey Orawiec were sixth and seventh.

FLORENCE HUSKES:  The Huskies rolled through the regular season with five dominating wins before a narrow 20-17 playoff loss to Centauri ended their run.  Owen Busetti was the top running threat last season as he led the team with 563 yards.  He has graduated but coach Jeremy Nix still gets back quite a bit of skill talent including RB Jacob Kennedy who generated 426 yards rushing.  QB Logan Nix ran for 218 yards and threw for 147 as a sophomore and should again direct the offense.  Jian Aguilar recorded a team best 47 tackles as a junior but the next six players on the list all graduated.

RYE THUNDERBOLTS:  Because of COVID, the Thunderbolts were limited to just four games and failed to dent the scoreboard in any of those contests.   They were extremely young at key spots as Jay Graham led the team with eight catches as a freshman and Codah Graber also topped the Thunderbolts with 23 tackles in his first year.  QB Rochester Riley was the leading passer as a sophomore and may be in line to be the starter there again this year.

ST MARY’S:  The Pirates will not field a varsity team for 2021.



CEDAREDGE BRUINS:  The Bruins were senior laden on both sides of the ball while finishing the fall season at 3-3.  On the graduation list is a starting quarterback, top three rushers, top six receivers and top eight tacklers so the rebuild will be across the board.  Ty Walck attempted 28 passes as a junior and could be the new quarterback.  He also recorded 16 tackles and could be joined on that side of the ball by Hunter Kissner (14) and Lane Hunsberger (11).

GRAND VALLEY CARDINALS:  It was a good run last Spring for the Cardinals who gained three wins and earned a trip to the playoffs.  They fell to Estes Park (40-27) in the state quarterfinals but post-season experience should help boost this program this year and in future seasons.  With Emilio Garcia (719 yards) and Steven Hicks (429) both returning, the Cardinals should be able to run the football again.  Five of the top six tacklers from the spring also return including Jacob Doyle (41), Brayden Harper (27) and Justice France (27).

GUNNISON COWBOYS:  The Cowboys played well against the Western Slope conference last Fall; gaining three wins in five games against traditional rivals.  To build on that success, the club must find a successor to Nico Marchitelli who was very important to all facets of the offense as a senior.  He led the team in both passing and rushing yards.  Kaleb Vincent (14 catches) and Michael Riser (12) return to lead a talented receiving group.  Defense could be the stronger unit out of the gate as leading tackler Sam Buckhanan, an honorable mention all-state nomination, returns along with Vincent and Bogdan Maples.

MEEKER COWBOYS:  The Cowboys went 5-2 last Fall and ended their season with a frustrating two-point loss to traditional power Strasburg in the state quarterfinal.  Ryan Phelan threw for 106 yards in the loss and ended his tremendous high school career with 45 TD passes and nearly 5,300 yards through the air.  Replacing him is the first task as the Cowboys look forward to 2021.  Whoever lands the job will likely get the ball to Kelton Turner who averaged over 10 yards a carry while leading the Cowboys with 670 yards rushing.  He also grabbed 13 passes.  Connor Blunt and Zach Eskelson each collected 41 tackles last Fall to finish tied for second overall.

NORTH FORK MINERS:  A new program in Class 1A combines the rich tradition of the Hotchkiss and Paonia programs.   Close rivals in the past, they now combine to challenge for the league title and playoff berth.  Hotchkiss landed the conference crown last year and returns the running combo of Mordecai White (637 yards) and Drayden Taylor (411).  Taylor will move over to QB to succeed Yahir Chavez who ran for 346 yards and passed for 422 yards in leading the Bulldogs to a perfect 6-0 regular season.  Paonia has struggled of late but has back-to-back state championships as recent as 2013-14 and followed that with another trip to the finals in 2015.

OLATHE PIRATES:  The Pirates gained two wins in 2020 as they rolled past Trinidad 48-0 in the season opener and then downed Paonia 40-8 inside the conference.  A third win almost came against Cedaredge as the Pirates fell short 14-12.  No statistics were reported to MaxPreps from last year.

ROARING FORK RAMS:  After a two-year absence from football, the Rams picked a bad time to get back on the field as COVID impacted every team in the state.  Even though they did not record a win during the spring season, a large of athletes gained valuable experience.  Four players attempted a pass with Oscar Barraza and Max Bollock combining for 86 attempts.  Both return.  Another key returnee is Blake Thomas who gained 110 yards.  He also topped the club with eight receptions.  On defense, eight of the top nine tacklers can return.  That group is led by juniors Walter Burger (42 tackles) and Brady Samuleson (39).