Classes 1A-4A

Staff reports
Posted 8/28/09

Seems like regaining momentum is the name of the game for many of the Class 4A or lower football programs. Castle View is chomping at the bit to put …

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Classes 1A-4A


Seems like regaining momentum is the name of the game for many of the Class 4A or lower football programs.

Castle View is chomping at the bit to put a “W” up after a losing streak that dates back to its 2007 campaign. Englewood reloads with a bunch of lettermen, while Heritage looks to return to the 4A playoffs after meeting misfortune in the bracket’s second round last year. Littleton is eager to get past the first round of playoffs this time.

5A football won’t have the only box scores to watch this season.

Castle View (4A)

One thing is for certain: Castle View is tired of losing. After a tough 0-10 season in 2008, the Sabercats, in their fourth year of existence, are ready to prove themselves.

“We are sick of losing around here,” Cats coach Ryan Hollingshead said. “We were not an 0-10 team physically last year, but we were 0-10 in confidence and commitment in the off-season. We have changed the what we do things here at Castle View, and we had our best off-season in our short history. Our guys have learned that it takes more to be winners, and they want it bad.”

Once the Sabercats pick up their first win of the season, they should win a lot more than some people may think, the coach said. Castle View comes to the field with a high amount of experience on defense, and it may have the best front seven in their league. The Cats’ secondary has some holes to fill, but all their new players are faster than last season. On offense, the View should be much more balanced with weapons at every position.

“We still want to pound it on you, but we also can throw it very effectively,” Hollingshead said.

Among returning starters for 2009 are senior running back Clint Kirby, who had 536 rushing yard last season, as well as second-team All-Conference senior Trenton Schamel, first team All-Conference senior Jade Pender and second team All-Conference junior linebacker and guard Kyle Fuoss, who led the team in tackles.

Also returning is junior Jason Baer, junior Marshall Thurston, who was the starting quarterback for the last five games in 2008, senior Bill Pesci, senior receiver and corner back Corey Herman, senior linebacker Spencer Holub and senior linebacker Spencer Haycock. Tommy Moen, a junior tight end, and senior free safety Zach Myatt, may also have an impact on the season.

While Wasson, Mesa Ridge and Sierra may struggle this season, Hollingshead said Pueblo South and Air Academy will again be strong teams this fall.

Englewood (3A)

Second-year coach Matt Bednorz expects the experience of his 20 returning lettermen to help the Pirates football team improves on last year’s 3-7 record.

Bednorz will continue to focus on coaching the defense and will use a variations off a basic 4-4 alignment. On the other side of the ball, new assistant coach Ed Gurule is the offensive coordinator. Plans are for the team to mix up the pass and the run as the Pirates change their basic formation from a pro-set to more of a wing-T formation with a lot of motion. They also will use a spread formation with the quarterback in the shotgun at times.

The offense will be directed by returning letterman Jacob Lowder, who saw some time at the quarterback spot last season. The senior said he is stronger and throws more accurately than last season. He also noted the attack will be strengthened by talented, speedy players in the backfield and at the receiver positions. Bednorz said Karl Moyer has looked good at wide receiver and also has done a good job at cornerback.

The line is a concern. There are a few veterans back but overall, the guys in the trenches are smaller than those who have played on the offensive and defensive lines in past years. One of the anchors will be 210-pound returning letterman Colby Bolger.

There are about 50 kids out for the team so the Pirates will forego playing a JV schedule but the varsity and the freshmen/sophomore teams will play a full slate of games.

In the league, Summit promises to return strong, D’Evelyn will again be a title contender as will Valor Christian.

Heritage (4A)

The Eagles had high hopes last season. A big returning class and a top wide receiver had them dreaming of playing for a state title.

But receiver Brandon Kaufman injured a knee, and the Eagles were bounced in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Pine Creek held the vaunted Heritage offense to seven points, the team’s lowest output of the season.

The Eagles’ hopes are more tempered this season, despite plenty of returning experience.

Coming back are three first-team all-league players in Mitch Griebel at quarterback/strong safety, Sean Hercher at free safety and Logan Steppan as an offensive and defensive lineman. Another four second-teamers return in Blair Zimmerman as running back and linebacker, Blake Shaffer at linebacker, Seth Kisselman at wide receiver and Shane Opitz also as a wide receiver.

With Griebel returning for his senior season and third year as the starting QB, the Eagles have reason for high hopes. Griebel can run the ball as well as he throws it. The Eagles have four talented wideouts to complement Griebel’s and Zimmerman’s ground game.

“We’ll be a challenge to defend,” said coach Mike Griebel, Mitch’s father. “We have a lot of people you have to defend. It’s not just the Mitch Show. It’s like Whack-a-Mole.”

The Eagles also get a favorable schedule, playing Wheat Ridge and Dakota Ridge at Littleton Public Schools Stadium. A year ago, the Eagles lost to Wheat Ridge, their lone regular-season defeat, and edged out Dakota Ridge by four points.

The Eagles learned about adversity with the injury to Kaufman, now catching passes at Eastern Washington University. That might have prepared them for this season.

“I think what happened to us last year, when we lost Kaufman, it changed us a little bit,” Mike Griebel said. “It didn’t change our confidence as much as it rattled us. It shook us up for down the road. This year there is no Kaufman. This is a different team. They have their own goals, their own expectations.”

Legend (3A)

With no varsity team until 2010, the Legend football team returns all its impact players from last season. This season they have a 10-game schedule against JV teams or teams unable to compete in postseason. This means they will play Vista Ridge, Palmer Ridge, and Discovery Canyon twice with Vista as there toughest opponent.

“Their focus is in the right place and the eagerness to become the best has been installed within each,” said coach Michael Wade.

Team camp this summer was a huge learning for the experience and helped them gain some needed confidence.

“Camp helped us realize that we can compete, that we are stronger and better,” Wade said.

This year they will concentrate on getting the team ready for jumping up to the varsity level.

“The main thing we are focusing on is the expectations of a champion: how to practice, the character needed to win, the sacrifices made, the value of preparation, and the real meaning of team,” Wade said.

Littleton (4A)

The Littleton Lions have averaged more than seven wins for the past four seasons. They’ve reached the playoffs three of the last four years. But each of those postseason appearances lasted one game. For the Lions, a one and done in the playoffs this year won’t satisfy them.

“So much is about execution and doing what you do,” coach Chad Koepke said. “And hopefully doing it better than the other team does. We’re trying to make a change here and there, and hopefully it gets us to the next level.”

After missing the playoffs in 2007, the Lions were right back in the postseason in 2008.

The Lions won their first seven, but stumbled to a 1-3 finish over their final four. But plenty of players with varsity experience are returning to give Littleton a good start for this year’s campaign.

Littleton returns five all-league players, including outside linebacker Ben Hranchak, voted the team’s defensive player of the year.

Hranchak, a three-year starter, was a key to the Lions staunch defense. Littleton held opponents to 14 points or fewer six times and posted three shutouts. Cornerback Kumar Pinkney also returns.

“Scheme-wise we’ll be better defensively this year,” Koepke said.

Offensively the Lions lose all-state rusher Jessen Kirchner. But they replace him with all-league talent in a healthy Mister Jones. All-league wideout Noah Gaumer also returns.

“For all intents and purposes, we feel we have lot of tools back,” Koepke said. “We feel very fortunate.”

Offensive linemen Josh Fliedner and Moser Tristan are back to protect returning quarterback Blake Buder.

“We’ve gone 8-2 three of the last 4 years,” Koepke said. “My message is, in one point in Littleton’s history, that’s an outstanding season. But with this group of kids is that enough? Is it just enough to get there? Is it just enough to get to playoffs?”

Lutheran-Parker (1A)

Finishing 4-5 last season and 3-3 in the league, the Lutheran-Parker Lions are hoping that new coach Steve Fickert can help make them a more dominate force in the Class 1A Metro North League.

The Lions start the season with a few non-conference games but face their toughest opponent, Lyons, to open the league in mid-September. Returning players include seniors Drue Barta, Oliver Horn and Stephen Knapp.

Rock Canyon (4A)

Canyon finished 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the league last season. The team lost their top defender but four defensive starters and eight offensive starters return this year. Returning for the Jaguars is second-team all-state wide receiver junior Keith Link and honorable mention senior quarterback Drew Sandln. Top rusher senior Martin Castro and senior offensive lineman Court Pietra also return.

“All have worked hard in off season. Each is maturing more and more every day and becoming leaders on our team,” said Jaguars coach Tom Lynch.

However, Lynch made a point to say that all players are important to the goals of the team.

“Our team concept is that if one player stands out it is because the other 10 must have been doing their job well. We don’t focus on statistics or physical attributes. They are “student-athletes” and expect them to have fun in extra-curricular activity that happens to be football right now,” Lynch said.

Fountain Fort Carson and Pine Creek will be the team’s first conference games and the toughest teams for Rock Canyon this season.

“Our goal is to simply try and improve on last year and compete in a very tough Pike’s Peak League,” said the seven-year head coach.

To be a contender in the league this year, the Jaguars think it will take a combination of things.

“We need to stay healthy, have a little luck, win a game we probably shouldn't and not lose one we should win,” Lynch said. “We feel every team is a contender each week.”

Valor Christian (3A)

Although returning 20 starters from last season, more then half of the Valor Christian High School football team is underclassmen. This is the second season for the team, and the Eagles are looking to improve on their 4-6 record from last year.

Among impacting players this season should be quarterback junior Brock Berglund, offensive and defensive tackle senior Danny Ramirez and wide receivers senior Ryan Nuu and junior Taylor Brown. Valor’s home opener is against Conifer, one of the toughest teams in the Metro League. They open the conference against Centaurus, another tough team to beat.

“The team has been extremely dedicated since January and have made great improvements,” Valor coach Brett Vieselmeyer said.


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