High School Sports

Class 4A softball preview: Silver Creek, Valor Christian emerge as obvious preseason title favorites
This fall’s Class 4A softball season could very well come down to a rematch of a state quarterfinal game played a year ago, when Valor Christian slipped by Silver Creek, 1-0, en route to the Eagles’ third consecutive championship. Both teams return plenty of firepower, including proven ace pitchers and a bevy of potent hitters. And both teams are hungry to add to their respective legacies — the Eagles are armed for a four-peat while the Raptors, who have made seven consecutive state tournament appearances, look to cement their program’s place on the map with their first ever state title. Even Valor Christian coach Dave Atencio — who is no stranger to championship collision courses, having been on one opposite Erie last year — admits the Raptors have the inside track heading into opening day on August 18. “The team to beat this year is Silver Creek,” Atencio said. “When we beat them in the quarterfinals last year, that was a great game that could’ve gone either way. They have their nucleus back, and I know those players well from club, so I expect them to be there at the end of October.” Silver Creek is No. 1 in the Denver Post preseason Prep Power Rankings. Junior Jetta Nannen (Hawaii commit), senior Dana Dwyer (Fort Lewis) and senior Kendra Green give the team three experienced pitchers, while senior shortstop Emma Flynn, junior outfielder Kayla Harper and junior outfielder Bailey Beavers round out the lineup. “Honestly, we’re one of those programs that’s flown under the radar for 10 years now,” said coach Ryan Beavers, in his 11th season. “We’ve never had a kid who throws 65-67 mph like Valor has — we just don’t have those kids. So to get to state again, we’ve got to play defense, we’ve got to score runs and our pitchers have to be able to manage traffic.” Valor Christian returns flamethrower senior righthander Ali Kilponen, the winning pitcher in three consecutive state title games. She also led all classifications last season in ERA (0.47), strikeouts (283), wins (24) and tied for the state lead in no-hitters at five. Kilponen is why the Eagles, despite the graduation of five starters, are ranked No. 2. “Ali sets the tone, and the other thing is that the other girls understand the excellence that we seek in our program,” Atencio said. “Because most of these girls were part of the last two state championships, they know our mental toughness has to be on display every game.” Other traditional heavyweights will surely challenge Valor Christian and Silver Creek as well. State runner-up Erie is dangerous again as is Air Academy, a 2016 semifinalist which returns senior pitcher Cassidy Horn (18-3, 1.82 ERA) as the Kadets eye the Pikes Peak League championship after falling just short last year to Discovery Canyon, another sleeper team in 2017. Defending Centennial League champion Mullen brings back its top hitter in senior outfielder Natalie Archuleta. Out of the Jeffco League coach Jamie Heflin and Wheat Ridge are likely to be a contender. And down south, Pueblo West returns the bulk of its lineup as well as senior ace Jade Garbiso (17-2, 1.38 ERA). All are capable of dethroning Valor Christian. “We’ve got to have a couple returners from last year come up big this year,” Atencio said, “because we know we’re getting everyone’s best shot.” Class 4A Preseason Power Rankings Silver Creek Valor Christian Mullen Pueblo West Wheat Ridge Air Academy Erie Mountain View Frederick Discovery Canyon [...]
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Class 5A softball preview: Eaglecrest headlines a top-heavy field filled with potential sleepers
Yvette Hendrian hasn’t had any shortage of success while at Eaglecrest. The Raptors have made the Class 5A state tournament in each of her five seasons — and her team, ranked No. 1 in the Denver Post preseason Prep Power Rankings, is loaded again heading into the fall. But Hendrian knows full well that with great expectations comes an even greater need for her team to tune out the hype in order to earn a title at the end of October, which would be the program’s second and first since 2005. “We’ve been in this position before and I think the first time we were in this position, our focus was a little different — it was my second year of coaching here where we had all the tools and had all the talent,” Hendrian said. “But once again, it comes down to execution. This year, I’m taking a different approach to focusing my players — on one at-bat and pitch at a time instead of on the end result.” Related ArticlesAugust 3, 2017 Newman: Softball coaching legend Bob Bledsoe returns to prep level to lead Fruita Monument July 21, 2017 Slugger Kailey Wilson, better than before her knee injury, is ready to lead Eaglecrest softball on state title run Headlining Eaglecrest is a pair of Division I power-hitters in senior first baseman Kailey Wilson (Creighton) and junior shortstop Rachel Sabourin (Hawaii). Wilson had a monstrous summer on the club circuit following her rehabilitation from knee surgery that sidelined her for all of last season, while All-Colorado selection Sabourin led the Raptors with a .567 average and nine homers last fall. Plus, Hendrian has the luxury of two veteran pitchers in seniors Mackenzie Hostetler and Braelyn Crenshaw, who shared time last season while carrying the Raptors to the semifinals. “We’re sitting pretty good right now, but our main focus is making sure we don’t get caught up in all the hoopla of being the team with the target on its back,” Hendrian said. “Mackenzie and Braelyn will be our two main arms again, and as a program, we’re fortunate to have two girls that everyone completely trusts in the circle.” But the Raptors won’t be the only 5A power with a stacked deck. Fossil Ridge, another 2016 semifinalist, only graduated two seniors and returns junior Rosie Philop, junior Kristen Reed, senior Rheanna Will and junior Mia Moddelmog to the lineup. Meanwhile, Legacy, again under the guidance of legendary coach Dawn Gaffin, will be another deep team out of the Front Range League thanks to the return of junior pitcher Isabella Kelly, as well as junior Lauren Strathearn, junior Peyton Miyasaki and senior Ciarra Nelson in the field. And in the Continental League, Legend and Douglas County are early favorites after dueling for the conference title last season en route to state tournament showings. The Titans return junior pitcher Zoey LeCompte as well as the bats of senior Alyssa Nunn, junior Payton Lincavage, sophomore Lauren Griggs and junior Olivia Bradley. The Huskies — under the direction of new coach Dane Craig, who had previously built Mountain Range into a perennial playoff contender — also have veteran talent in sophomore pitcher Savanna Reiners and a lineup featuring senior catcher and Coastal Carolina commit Abbey Montoya. “My philosophy of putting in the hard work, letting the winning take care of itself and an emphasis on the mental game seems to fit this group of girls and this program,” Craig said. “I’m excited for what I have coming back, and the surprises I’m sure I’ll find in tryouts is only going to make this more fun moving forward.” But the sleepers of the classification might have the final say at the state tournament, as they did in 2015 (Mountain Range) and 2016 (Cherokee Trail) when those teams flew under the radar for most of the season en route to their respective titles. The sport’s three dominant leagues (Centennial, Continental and Front Range) all have several teams in that category, including Grandview, Cherry Creek, Mountain Vista, Castle View, Fort Collins and Loveland — not to mention Cherokee Trail and Broomfield, both of which lost a lot of talent from last season’s state title game yet figure to be competitive once again. “The kind of team that flies under the radar is the one you’ve got to watch out for,” Hendrian said. “And you can’t forget about the importance of tradition with those top-tier teams either, like Legacy with Gaffin, because they know how to get to the state tournament.” Defending Class 5A champion Cherokee Trail is ranked eighth in the 2017 preseason Denver Post Preps Power Rankings. (Photo by Kyle Newman, The Denver Post) Class 5A Preseason Power Rankings Eaglecrest Fossil Ridge Legend Douglas County Legac [...]
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With a Junior World Championship now on her resume, Maya Nelson’s intent on earning an Olympic wrestling title
To realize her potential as a wrestler, Maya Nelson knew she needed to immerse herself in the sport. So in January, the 2015 Denver East graduate who became the first girl to advance to the quarterfinals of the Colorado state wrestling tournament, moved from Montbello to Colorado Springs in order to wrestle full-time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The migration southward paid off in a big way last week, when on Friday, Nelson won freestyle gold at the Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland, in the 139-pound weight class to become the country’s first Junior World winner since 2010. “Moving has been the best thing I’ve done for my career,” Nelson said in a phone interview. “I’ve been wrestling people like Becka Leathers, who’s on the Senior World Team, and people like Amanda Hendey, who’s been on several national teams. I’ve been in a room with heavy hitters who are still training for senior world titles. It’s a great environment to be around.” In a U.S. wrestling system where the Cadet and Junior teams are often seen as the stockpile for future national team stars, Nelson’s latest achievement puts her goal of making the 2020 Olympic team within reach. “A Junior World Championship is a great stepping stone to becoming an Olympic champion,” Nelson said. “Now, it’s about continuing to work hard in practice — even if I’m getting one percent better every day, that is going to add up to a spot on the team and, hopefully, that Olympic title.” Related ArticlesAugust 4, 2017 Q&A: Mullen football standout Adrian Jackson talks Mustangs’ prospects this fall, commitment to Oregon and more August 3, 2017 Newman: Softball coaching legend Bob Bledsoe returns to prep level to lead Fruita Monument August 2, 2017 Mountain Vista cross country motivated to pad program’s reputation as a distance powerhouse August 2, 2017 Peyton Manning seeking football programs that advance the game July 31, 2017 Aurora ramps up free training for umpires, referees to cover growing gap in officials for citywide sports And in the bruising, oxygen-deprived moments against her American counterparts at the training center, Nelson said she constantly harkens back to her days at Denver East, a time in which she noted a main motivation was to “prove that she could compete against boys turning into men” en route to becoming a two-time state qualifier. “Wrestling boys made me face a lot of adversity, which helped my wrestling tremendously,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t out-muscle these guys, and that I had to use my technique and speed. All of that goes into the way I wrestle now.” [...]
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Peyton Manning seeking football programs that advance the game
Peyton Manning is looking for football programs interested in advancing the game. The five-time MVP quarterback and now an ambassador for Riddell will review applicants for an equipment grant from the company through its Smarter Football initiative, now in its third year. Smarter Football is a grass-roots campaign that recognizes and rewards teams across the country for implementing smarter tactics on and off the field. Some 1,700 football programs across North America from the youth level up to semi-pro have applied for an equipment grant the past two seasons. Related ArticlesAugust 3, 2017 A country star coming to Denver next month just hung out with Peyton Manning. Could we get another surprise performance? July 26, 2017 Von Miller ready to fill larger role as a leader. That means leading his own unique way. July 23, 2017 Kiszla: John Elway? An underdog? Now there’s a role No. 7 might have hard time embracing. July 12, 2017 Peyton Manning hosted the 2017 ESPYs. He killed it. Watch for yourself. “Over the years, I’ve attended many youth and high school football practices,” says Manning, who retired after winning the Super Bowl in February 2016 with Denver. “I’ve witnessed the struggle many of these programs undergo to get the right equipment to provide proper protection for their players. In addition to promoting a safer approach to the sport together, Riddell’s Smarter Football program has the opportunity to ignite new energy into these hard-working programs.” Riddell has launched Precision-Fit, a state-of-the-art three-dimensional head scanning process used to build a custom-fitting, player-specific helmet liner system to provide personalized protection. Riddell also has technology that summarizes players’ on-field alerts and identifies training opportunities for athletes. “I’ve always valued preparation and information, both on and off the field,” Manning adds. “I studied everything from the helmet I wore to the tape I watched to the plays I called to try to set myself and my team up for success. “This year’s program will continue to recognize and reward those at all levels of play who have taken steps towards improving and advancing the sport of football, especially when it comes to player safety and protection.” [...]
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Q&A: Mullen football standout Adrian Jackson talks Mustangs’ prospects this fall, commitment to Oregon and more
Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman caught up with Mullen strong safety/wideout Adrian Jackson to discuss the prospects for the Mustangs this fall, his commitment to the University of Oregon, his team’s arduous early-season schedule and more: Q: For a program that reached the Class 5A quarterfinals last season, what does your success boil down to this fall? A: For the last two years, I think the chemistry of our team fell off as we got through the season. So this year, our success will be based off that chemistry, and how we can stick to playing with each other at the end of the day when it comes down to the playoffs in the second round, and the third round, when the competition is good and guys are banged up and it’s cold outside. If we can keep our composure through that, we’ll make it as far as we want to go. Q: How does the graduation of Division I players such as Isiahia Banks, Marcus McElroy and Christian Cumber affect you guys? Is there a completely new identity to the team this season? A: Because of all the talent we had last year, all of us were basically just playing off that talent — we were trying to play as individuals instead of as a team. This year, we don’t have as much talent, so we’re going to stay together to keep everything in front of us. We’ve put a heavy emphasis on relationships, and the seniors have been going out to eat with each other after every practice, and we had a camping trip about two weeks ago at one of our player’s houses in Evergreen. We got quite a bit of bonding on that trip, so we know what kind of team we have going into camp. Q: What went into the decision to commit to Oregon? A: I had a good amount of Division I schools that offered me, but my top three was Oregon, Ohio State and USC. I visited all three of the schools and ended up choosing Oregon because I had a good relationship with the coaching staff there, and when you add in the facilities, the campus, the environment and the tradition, it felt like a good place to be. It felt like home. Related ArticlesJuly 21, 2017 Newman: Still no shortage of football riches at Valor Christian as two Division I talents battle for quarterback job July 31, 2017 Colorado prep football coaching changes: Five new head honchos to watch this fall July 31, 2017 Chris Jones talks Windsor coaching return, Wizards’ 2017 prospects and more Q: And with the plan to play linebacker in college, will you see any time at that position this fall? A: We have a formation where I drop down into a linebacker set, but I’m still technically playing in the safety slot. Mostly against the run, I’ll go down into that package, or when we play running teams like Columbine. It’s called ‘strong safety set,’ and I just come down to play in the box as a fourth linebacker. So yes, at times I’ll be called on to help stuff and contain the run. Q: You open the season with consecutive road showdowns against Pomona, Valor Christian and Regis Jesuit. How do you prepare for that? A: Our success in the first few weeks is all going to be determined by what we do during the preseason work, when we get back into pads and start setting the tone for the season. If we go hard during practices — and if we go out and play for one another — then we’ll be perfectly fine. It’s a matter of being mentally sound and bringing that physicality on both sides of the ball. 2017 Mullen Football Schedule Aug. 25, 7 p.m. @ Pomona (NAAC) Sept. 1, 7 p.m. @ Valor Christian (Valor Stadium) Sept. 8, 7 p.m. @ Regis Jesuit (Lou Kellogg Stadium) Sept. 15, 7 p.m. vs Westminster Sept. 22, 7 p.m. @ Bothell (Bothell, WA) Oct. 5, 7 p.m. @ Mountain Range (North Stadium) Oct. 12, 7 p.m. @ Columbine (Jeffco Stadium) Oct. 20, 7 p.m. vs Fairview Oct. 27, 7 p.m. @ ThunderRidge (Shea Stadium) Nov. 3, 7 p.m. vs Northglenn [...]
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Newman: Softball coaching legend Bob Bledsoe back at prep level to lead Fruita Monument on a state tournament push
When longtime Erie softball coach Bob Bledsoe stepped down in 2015 and moved to Grand Junction to take an assistant coaching position at Colorado Mesa University, he had no intention of ever returning to the prep ranks. After all, it seemed to be a career transition that made sense at the time: The CHSAA Hall of Famer had nothing left to prove with the Tigers — their 11 state championships are a record and nearly double the six titles earned by Legacy, Wheat Ridge and Arvada West, and Bledsoe’s teams were an astounding 405-87 over his 20 seasons. But the itch to get back to preps never went away for Bledsoe, who accepted a job to be the new head coach at Fruita Monument in May. Related ArticlesJuly 28, 2017 Newman: Rocky Mountain grad Marco Gonzales primed to return to big leagues to help Mariners in Wild Card hunt July 21, 2017 Newman: Still no shortage of football riches at Valor Christian as two Division I talents battle for quarterback job July 14, 2017 Newman: Ralston Valley coach Matt Schoepflin founds Boost Hockey to help players in need of financial assistance “I spent my whole life as a high school coach, and I started missing it,” Bledsoe said. “I talked to my family, my wife, to (CMU head coach) Ben Garcia — I wanted to give it another shot, and I got permission from everyone so I went ahead and did it. It feels right to be back at this level.” Fruita Monument’s lone state championship came back in 1989, in just the third year of sanctioned play when the state tournament was still unclassified. So it won’t be the usual frontrunner position that Bledsoe’s team assumes heading into this fall, as the Class 5A Wildcats are coming off an 11-10 campaign in which they went 0-2 in regional play. But Bledsoe knows that if his team can bring heart and work ethic to the diamond, they have a good chance at taking a leap forward this fall. “The number one factor in my success at Erie was that the program was blessed with some really talented players who were passionate about softball,” Bledsoe explained. “They came with some skill levels that were pretty extraordinary at times, and then over the course of years as I learned and grew as a coach, that helped our program find solid footing. I know there’s talent here at Fruita to grow that same sort of culture.” The season’s first official practice is August 14th, at which time Bledsoe says he’ll start seriously evaluating the players he has. In the meantime, he’s simply trying to learn everyone’s names as he also communicates his vision and goals to the program. “First, we come to Denver for the Don McCall Tournament to open the season, and then we come back the next week for the Dave Sanders Tournament — there’s ten games right there where we need to show well and prove ourselves,” Bledsoe said. “We’re going to see teams with good traditions, which is great, because I always want my teams to be challenged during the regular season. “Then, on our side of the mountain, our second goal is to win our league. There’s a strong chance that if we do that, we could host regionals instead of having to travel to one. And since they went to regionals last year and were eliminated, I always like to set a goal of taking one step beyond what you achieved the previous year — we’d like to make it to state, and I believe we can do it.” Bob Bledsoe’s State Championship Teams 1998: Erie 3A 2000: Erie 3A 2001: Erie 3A 2002: Erie 3A 2003: Erie 3A 2004: Erie 3A 2005: Erie 3A 2007: Erie 3A 2008: Erie 3A 2009: Erie 3A 2010: Erie 4A [...]
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Mountain Vista cross country motivated to pad program’s reputation as a distance powerhouse
Entering his 11th season as the head cross country coach at Mountain Vista, Jonathan Dalby says this year’s Golden Eagles are “as motivated of a group as I’ve ever had” — a strong statement when considering the boys’ Class 5A championship streak from 2012-15 as well as the girls’ establishment among the big-school elite. Driving this year’s motivations is the lingering taste of both team’s runner-up finishes last fall. The boys had their five-peat thwarted by nine points to Monarch, while the girls also fell short by single digits to Broomfield in a bid for their first state title. “Because of last year, this summer has been more about trying to hold them back so they don’t push harder than they need to go right now, because they’re pretty ambitious,” Dalby explained. “The boys have a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and the girls were close last year and they’d love to get one. But as a staff, we’re keeping them focused on the day-to-day process, knowing that will benefit us at the end of the season.” As the first day of official practice looms August 14, the Golden Eagle boys return three of their five scorers from last fall’s state meet, with seniors Carter Dillon and Caden Foster highlighting a program that has consistently churned out Division I talent — and is eager to add to that legacy. “I guess on paper, most people would think that state runner-up is pretty good,” Dillon said. “But a title is something we feel we can accomplish every year, and handling that expectation involved a lot of learning from the guys before us. They passed down a lot of good knowledge, and their experience continues to help us out a lot.” The girls team also continues to ascend, and is likely to again be in a two-team race for the title with Broomfield come time for the state meet Oct. 28 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. No other school was within a country mile of challenging either program last year, and this year, each team returns its top five runners. But rather than focusing on the firepower up in Broomfield, junior Caroline Eck, sophomore Jenna Fitzsimmons and sophomore Sarah O’Sullivan have turned their energy inward. They’re feeding off the championship resume of the boys throughout the team’s early-morning summer workouts that saw the Golden Eagles in action along trails across Douglas County and Jefferson County five to six days a week from early June through early August. “The cool thing about the Vista program is that we’re really connected, so when someone is working hard it inspires another person to work hard,” Eck said. “It’s a chain reaction each practice, meet and year, and it makes our team so deep to help our success overall.” And beyond the state’s borders, both Mountain Vista teams seek to make noise on a national stage at the Nike Cross Southwest Regional in November. Finishing in among the top two there qualifies the team for the Nike Cross Nationals, which Vista’s boys and girls teams have each done once before. The boys took 11th in 2015, the girls finished 13th last year. Buoying those lofty national hopes is a daily dedication to running that is seen not only during practice, but in the Golden Eagles’ decisions outside of the sport as well. “Our success is not so much all about being committed to the summer and to our training as it is being committed to everything that we do,” Dalby said. “As a staff, we talk to them pretty frequently about sleep, nutrition and hydration — the importance of taking care of the little things. What they do the other 22 hours a day makes the biggest difference in how far their training will take them, and how our season will go as a team.” [...]
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Chris Jones talks Windsor coaching return, Wizards’ 2017 prospects and more
After winning his second state title in nine seasons in 2015, Chris Jones stepped down from the Windsor head coaching job to coach his oldest son and teach at a school closer to his Fort Collins home, Rocky Mountain. But Jones’ ties to the Windsor community were strong enough to bring him back to the Wizards, as teacher and coach, following his year-long absence. Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman caught up with Jones to discuss his return to Windsor, his team this season and more. Jones on his connection with the Windsor community… “I was never fully out of contact with the coaching staff, the administration, the parents or the players. In late November, I went to one game and it was great to see everyone, and following that, we had a series of unfortunate losses in the Windsor area. There were some adults who had passed away who had been close to our program, and then we had several kids lose their lives — and I had those kids in class, and a couple of them played football for me as well. Going to a few funerals, seeing the sadness — it was tough. It was hard to see the community hurting like that. “My A.D. and principal there were always supportive — and it wasn’t that they didn’t like the direction the program was going or how coach Skylar Brower (now the offensive coordinator at Fossil Ridge) was handling the program. They just reached out to me, and I thought about it, and it was a pretty emotional time for a lot of people. By no means am I some savior, but that community impacted me and I impacted them, so I felt like that’s where I needed to be.” Jones on how to replace Corte Tapia… “We never really try to replace an individual player, because they’re all unique. Corte was a special player — that’s why he’s at CSU now — and he’s one of the few guys in my years at Windsor that was able to play varsity all four years, and one of three that was able to start all four years. Can we put that same skill set back in there at linebacker? Most likely, probably not — but we can get a kid in there who’s athletic, who knows the system and our expectations and who know what leadership looks like just like Corte did.” Jones on what he learned from coaching his son… “I guess you could say in the year off from Windsor I got a little calmer and not so quick to react to a situation from coaching my son’s seventh grade team. I think I’m more patient with things, and I don’t let issues take up a lot of time at practice — so I’m just more understanding that I’m dealing with teenage kids where sometimes mistakes are going to happen. Our job is to, hopefully, teach them to be more consistent on and off the field.” Jones on instilling leadership in his team… “Each year, you have to teach kids how to lead. And each year, there’s a new group that comes in and hasn’t led before, and it takes a little time to get them acclimated to it. But I’m trying to put more on their plate, in terms of communication and expectations of their peers, and holding them to those expectations.” Jones on his famous whistle and this season’s mindset… “I do have the whistle. We have a senior BBQ on August 11 where I go over goals with the seniors and talk to the senior parents about expectations, what our theme is and the general overview to the year. At that time, all our seniors will add a piece of tape to the whistle just as all my past seniors have. “This year, things are going to be different, and it’s a matter of how we handle ‘different’ together as a group. Different can be positive or negative, it can be something that happens to us on the field or off — and there’s always going to be a corresponding reaction, so it’s about how we react. We have a challenging schedule up front and our league is difficult as well, so we’re going to be challenged and we will see how we handle each week-to-week test.” Windsor’s key 2017 returners Zach Watts, Sr. OL/DL (Wyoming commit) Brandon Ramirez, Sr. RB Joel Kopcow, Sr. LB Connor Apodaca, Sr. QB Chase Lanckriet, Jr. QB Windsor’s 2017 schedule Sept. 1, 7 p.m. @ Vista Ridge (District 20 Stadium) Sept. 8, 7 p.m., vs Pine Creek Sept. 15, 7 p.m. @ Broomfield (Elizabeth Kennedy Stadium) Sept. 21, 7 p.m. @ Greeley West (District 6 Stadium) Sept. 29, 7 p.m. vs Grand Junction Oct. 5, 7 p.m. @ Mountain View (Ray Patterson Field) Oct. 13, 7 p.m. vs Monarch Oct. 19, 7 p.m. @ Greeley Central (District 6 Stadium) Oct. 27, 7 p.m. vs Skyline Nov. 3, 7 p.m. @ Fort Collins (French Field) [...]
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Colorado prep football coaching changes: Five new head honchos to watch this fall
As the calendar turns to August and the official start of fall football practice looms weeks away, Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman breaks down five offseason head coaching hires to keep an eye on heading into the start of a new season: Joe Johnson, Cherokee Trail After 17 seasons and three state Class 4A championships at ThunderRidge, Johnson headed east to Aurora to become the Cougars’ third head coach in as many years. Johnson is 205-86 in 22 years of head coaching — a career mark that includes a four-year stint at Douglas County from 1994-98 — and figures to bring a new level of intensity to Cherokee Trail, which went 5-6 in 2016 en route to a first-round playoff loss. The Cougars will lean on junior running back Dylan James to create sparks offensively this fall. Tony Lindsay, Far Northeast A fixture on the Denver South sideline for the past decade, Lindsay crafted the Rebels into the city’s best football program via seven straight playoff appearances and a 2012 Class 4A title game showing. But the move to Far Northeast will be an entirely different challenge for Lindsay, as the Warriors had as many head coaches — three — as total wins from 2014-16. Senior running back/free safety Keisean Parker highlights a roster that’s a blend of players from smaller high schools around the Montbello area, and Lindsay should have ample future talent to work with thanks to the Class 5A co-op school’s current enrollment of 2,948 — the second-largest in Colorado behind Cherry Creek. Travis Peeples, Frederick The latest coaching stop for Peeples — who was an assistant at Cheyenne South (Wyo.) last season, and the head coach at Aurora Central and offensively coordinator at Greeley West in the two years before to that — brings him to Frederick, where the Warriors have won two games in the past three seasons combined. But Peeples, a quarterback at the University of Central Florida in the early 1990s, is known for his ability to turn programs around. He led Aurora Central to an 8-2 mark and a playoff appearance in his lone season on the job, and key Frederick returners such as senior running back/strong safety Matt Olson give the first-year coach something to work with in another from-the-ground-up endeavor. Julian Banks, Northfield After coaching Adams City for two seasons, Banks steps in to guide a Northfield team that went 7-3 at the junior varsity level last fall in its first full season as a program. It’s a unique opportunity for both Banks — who played professionally in Europe and is currently the quarterback for Colorado Greyhawks, one of the best semi-pro football teams in the entire country — as well as the Nighthawks, who will use 2017 as another growing opportunity before the program becomes an official varsity program at the Class 3A level in 2018. Taylor Calvert, Gateway It’s the third Aurora coaching stop for Calvert, who left his gig as a Rangeview assistant to take the job with the Olympians and also served as Aurora Central’s head coach from 2014-16. Calvert inherits some returning talent from Gateway’s 2-8 team last season, including a skilled offensive core of seniors in running back Kevin Traylor Jr., quarterback Xavier Delk and wide receiver Ajonte Manlove. The Olympians’ 2017 success is largely dependent on if they can get some momentum out of the gates, when their schedule opens with winnable road games against Littleton and Grand Junction Central. [...]
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Aurora ramps up free training for umpires, referees to cover growing gap in officials for citywide sports
Each year, the number of organized adult and youth sports competitions in Colorado rises. And each year, the number of people ready to officiate those competitions drops. In Aurora, that has led to two things: Parks employees are working overtime to cover competitions, and the city is training local residents to become the next generation of officials. “It’s not just Colorado. It’s every state in the country,” said Bert Borgman, assistant commissioner for the Colorado High School Activities Association, or CHSAA. “We’re experiencing shortages of officials in all sports — referees for football, basketball, soccer; umpires for baseball and softball; gymnastics judges and so on.” Beth Yacono, a senior recreation specialist with the city of Aurora, has led umpire and referee training for several years. “We’re short across the board for all different sports officials,” she said “I used to charge for the time and lessons, but now that we have such a shortage, that isn’t worth it,” she said. “We hold a fast-pitch softball clinic for our youth softball umpires every year, and now (we train officials) for youth basketball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and adult kickball. We will be having another adult slow-pitch softball training next spring before our playing season starts.” Yacono, who has more than 35 years of experience in umpiring, typically teaches free officiating clinics in spring and fall. She just ended an additional summer clinic for softball umpires because there are not enough officials to cover the city’s massive softball program. Parks and recreation employees have stepped up to, literally, cover the bases during 50-60 games a season, she said. “We cover the rules of the game and then do field training. These umpires will now go to on-field training with an experienced umpire in live games,” Yacono said. Aurora’s adult softball league includes more than 2,500 games a season. The city’s recreation leagues include upward of 5,000 adult and youth games — and all need officiating, the city said. Full-time and part-time city staffers fill in as officials and get paid for it, if they’re eligible. “We also have contracted some of our games out to official assigning companies when we need more officials than staff can cover,” Yacono said. “This year has been a challenging year for youth basketball and adult softball. All of the full-time staff in the sports office have had to officiate games this year in the sports they manage. I personally have done over 20 adult softball games this year.” It’s an issue shared by cities across the U.S., said Tom Robinson, assistant commissioner for CHSAA. “The trend started maybe two or three years ago,” Robinson said. “All states were losing officials or not able to keep up with the demand for them in schools.” The number of officials qualified to work at CHSAA competitions dropped from 5,000 to 4,300 in the past three years, Robinson said. “That’s very significant, and I don’t know if we have enough research to say why.” Former officials give him numerous reasons for leaving the field: retirement, new careers, moves, other commitments, harassment. Matthew Thornton, a contract umpire who has worked in Aurora for seven years, said officials need to have flexible schedules and thick skin to make it. “The numbers of us are dropping for sure,” Thornton said. “Whether it’s umpires not getting paid enough or taking a lot of back talk and cussing from parents and players and coaches. Sometimes, if we make the wrong call or they don’t agree on a call, then players tend to take it personally and take it out on the umpires. So they just walk away from it (officiating).” He said, “I ask players all the time if they’re interested in umpiring, and I would say that about 80 percent of those people tell me, ‘No, I wouldn’t want to have people yelling at me all night.'” Calling double headers for Aurora is Thornton’s side gig. He said he can earn about $300 a week if he works a few games a night a few times a week. “If you make $58 calling varsity football and $43 for junior varsity, then you can get close to $100 in a three- or four-hour period,” Robinson said. Related ArticlesJuly 21, 2017 Lincoln Avenue shut down over weekend while Lone Tree gets leaf sculpture July 14, 2017 Artificial turf has sprouted under Centennial’s Sports Dome July 13, 2017 Boys and Girls Club’s expanded and remodeled teen center boosts spirits, attendance July 12, 2017 New manager says public boating, fishing to continue at Lonetree Reservoir July 8, 2017 Lonetree Reservoir to close to th [...]
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David Moore III poised for breakout sophomore season as Pine Creek aims for fourth Class 4A football title in five years
David Moore III remembers his coming out moment like it was yesterday. Pine Creek started the 2016 season 1-2 and was hungry for a win entering its Week 4 road showdown at Vista Ridge, where the Eagles desperately needed a spark to get their season back on track toward a Class 4A state title, which they had won in 2013 and 2014. Not only did Moore provide the spark that night — rushing for 232 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout victory — but his performance indicated the then-freshman could be the program’s championship catalyst for the next four seasons. “That was a big game for me,” Moore recalled. “Offensively, we were executing well that game, and the line kept blowing holes for me. I just recall thinking how awesome Friday nights were, and how playing for this program was everything I’d thought it would be and more.” Moore — better known as ‘DM3’ around the Pine Creek program — ended up rushing for 1,585 yards and 18 scores last fall despite missing three games due to an ankle injury as the Eagles cruised to their third title in four years. The phenom also led all of the state’s freshmen in rushing as he scampered for 200 yards or more on three separate occasions, including in Pine Creek’s 36-14 trouncing of Broomfield in the championship game. And for Pine Creek naysayers counting on a sophomore slump when the Eagles kick off their 2017 season Sept. 2 at ThunderRidge, head coach Todd Miller said Moore — who has added about 15 pounds of muscle since last year — is poised for an even bigger campaign this fall. “He’s always wanting to prove that he belongs, which is a good characteristic for an athlete to have,” Miller said. “With every snap, he’s intent on proving that worth to his teammates and wanting to be the best he can possibly be.” Joe Amon, The Denver PostPine Creek running back David Moore III celebrates with his teammates after winning the 2016 Class 4A state title at Sports Authority Field. At 5-8 and 170 pounds, Moore’s running style has drawn comparisons from the Pine Creek coaching staff to a prep-aged Barry Sanders when he was dodging tacklers in Wichita, Kan. He’s speedy, elusive and always seems to find the seam — and he’s much more bruising than he looks. “He can do some things that you just can’t coach,” Miller said. “That includes his toughness and his love for the position, but his vision is also unbelievable — he understands where the other 11 guys are moving on defense and where his 10 guys are moving on offense, and he always finds a way to turn it up field.” Moore spent the summer in the weight room and on the track, working to shed the “too small” label that could potentially keep him from reaching his goal of playing running back at the Division I level like his father did at Southern Miss. The sophomore doesn’t have any college offers yet, but is widely considered the state’s best at his position in the Class of 2020. “He’s working on mixing up his runs — not just the agility and the lateral movements, but also knowing when it’s time to juke and get around somebody or when it’s time to get through somebody,” running backs coach Lee Macklin said. And while Moore also has a number of athletic teammates challenging him for carries — including senior Wyatt Wieland, junior DJ Armstead and sophomore Max Lofey — his talents have single handedly morphed Pine Creek’s offensive approach this season. “He’s done some things that have changed our philosophy in how we block,” Miller said. “He just kind of defies some of those football rules that we thought were steadfast — and as a high school coach, I believe you have to curtail what you do to the abilities of your personnel. Traditionally, we’ve been a veer team with an option philosophy as our foundation, but we’re going to more of a zone scheme with inside and outside zone.” Pine Creek also intends to get Moore more involved in the passing game as he recorded only four receptions for 31 yards in 2016. That, in addition to his increased vocal leadership on the field and in the locker room, makes Moore a primary team leader heading into fall camp following the graduations of quarterback Brock Domann and wideout Peter Isais. “As a sophomore, David is someone that everyone on the team looks up to because of the way he plays the game and his natural talent,” Wyatt Wieland said. “Even as a senior, I look up to him because of what he does for the team, and how he continues to take on an increased leadership role in every aspect of practice.” Hence, Pine Creek’s push for a fourth title in five years — and further cementation of the Eagles’ dynasty — rides [...]
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Newman: Rocky Mountain grad Marco Gonzales primed to return to big leagues to help Mariners in wild-card hunt
Southpaw Marco Gonzales’ baseball resume is as lengthy as it is impressive. But ask him what his biggest feat is, and he doesn’t hesitate with the answer. Staying healthy. “After each start, my arm feels good,” Gonzales said. “I’m pitching without pain, and that’s a huge victory for me. With that in mind, the results take a back seat to the approach and just making sure I’m feeling good every day.” The 25-year-old Rocky Mountain graduate is still the only player in Colorado prep history to be the winning pitcher in four straight championship games, something he accomplished from 2007-10. From there, he went on to star as a dynamic two-way player at Gonzaga before being drafted by the Cardinals in the first round in 2013. But following a rapid ascent to the big leagues, Gonzales’ professional career has been marred by injuries. Shoulder inflammation limited his action in 2015 and Tommy John surgery sidelined him for all of 2016. Now, in a familiar setting following his trade from the Cardinals to the Mariners on July 21 — Gonzales makes his offseason home in Seattle; his wife is from nearby Sammamish — it’s looking promising for the pitcher to contribute to a playoff push. The Mariners entered Friday 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, and Gonzales dazzled in his first start at AAA Tacoma through six solid innings of work in a 4-3 Rainiers victory. “It’s absolutely a goal to contribute to the playoff run,” Gonzales said. “I step on the mound every time hoping to prove myself and get myself to the next level, but I’m looking at it right now as a day-to-day process, with a focus on the little things I can do each day to make myself better, so that hopefully when that time comes I’m ready for the opportunity.” Related ArticlesJuly 21, 2017 Newman: Still no shortage of football riches at Valor Christian as two Division I talents battle for quarterback job July 14, 2017 Newman: Ralston Valley coach Matt Schoepflin founds Boost Hockey to help players in need of financial assistance With an arsenal that includes a sinking, low-90s fastball, a changeup he describes as “my go-to pitch” and a serviceable curveball that’s improved drastically following elbow surgery, Gonzales has the command necessary to earn a permanent job in a Mariners rotation that ranks in the bottom half of the American League in quality starts. But call-ups are a matter of performance and timing, and as Gonzales waits on his return to the big leagues, he emphasized he can’t help but feel grateful to still be in baseball, with a chance to lace up his cleats and go to work every fifth game. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play overseas and all across the country because of baseball,” Gonzales said. “My entire career, I’ve made it a point to look back and be fortunate to see the places the game has taken me, and the people I’ve met because of it. This new opportunity with the Mariners is the latest stop on my journey, and I’m nothing but excited for what’s ahead.” [...]
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With emphasis on “being brave, not perfect,” BC Denver underscores status as one of state’s top girls programs
Little did Geoff Golden know that his two years as the player development coach for the Colorado 14ers, the state’s since-relocated NBA D-League franchise, would prepare him for the challenges of coaching girls club basketball. Golden, who admits he “never intended to start a girls club,” founded Basketball Club Denver in 2010 after originally stepping in to a girls’ summer team that was in need of coaching help. It was his first time coaching girls in a team environment, but since then, BC Denver — as the program has become known around local hardcourts — has emerged as one of the state’s premier girls club basketball programs. “It’s a similar situation to the D-League because it was hard to get those guys to play together when they’re competing for million-dollar contracts,” Golden said. “With what we do, all our girls are out there to play and showcase their own abilities for a scholarship — but what we teach from Day 1 of our program is the culture that this process has to be done together, because basketball is a team game.” The team-first culture Golden has cultivated allows individual success to thrive. In eight seasons, 47 BC Denver players earned college scholarships as the program has expanded from two to four teams. The roster for BC Denver’s top team, 2018 Elite, reads like a “who’s who” of local high school standouts. All 10 girls on the roster — five seniors, four juniors and a sophomore — have been offered Division I scholarships, with Ralston Valley‘s Delaynie Byrne (a University of Minnesota pledge who’s widely considered one of the best players in the Class of 2018) being the only one to commit so far. Horizon’s Alyssa Jimenez, Cherry Creek‘s Sydney Mech and Fairview’s Ashley Panem are among other standouts on 2018 Elite, while the program’s 2018 Select team also features a Division I player in Air Force commit and Rocky Mountain senior Madelyn Bennett. Both 2018 Elite and 2018 Select played a national schedule this summer, traveling to tournaments in Texas, Chicago and Washington D.C. in July alone. Next up is the Tournament of Champions this weekend in Atlanta, the conclusion of the summer season for BC Denver. “Our tournaments are based around the NCAA viewing period, where, obviously, exposure from colleges takes place,” Golden said. “We usually just play a slate of games and there’s no bracket play or anything, because these tournaments are really about giving these girls a chance to prove themselves against top competition.” Golden also emphasized the reason BC Denver has earned mention alongside other powerhouse girls club basketball programs such as Colorado Premier, Colorado Basketball Club and Mile Hi Magic is because of the “develop, empower, compete” ethos his staff and players embrace. “Our big thing this year is being brave, not perfect,” Golden said. “We feel like too many kids and too many players try to be perfect, and they need to just be more concerned with being brave and going for it and not having that fear of failure. Our teams have done that all summer.” BC Denver 2018 Elite Roster Ashley Steffeck, Fossil Ridge, Jr., G Denali Pinto, Fairview, Sr., G Alyssa Jimenez, Horizon, Jr., G Delaynie Byrne, Ralston Valley, Sr., F Tomia Johnson, Grandview, So., PG Sam Deem, Horizon, Jr. F Ashley Panem, Fairview, Sr., G Sydney Mech, Cherry Creek, Sr., F/G Samantha Van Sickle, Ralston Valley, Sr., F/G Arielle Wisne, Horizon, Jr., C [...]
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