2016 has come and gone, with plenty of memorable high school sports moment interspersed along the way. Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman takes a look at some of those moments, clutch performances, dominant teams and much more in the year in Colorado high school sports:
Most Clutch Senior Performance: Air Academy runner Katie Rainsberger
In the spring, the current University of Oregon runner capped her phenomenal prep career with another four-event sweep at the state track championships. Rainsberger won 4A individual titles in the 800m, 1,600m and 3,200m, along with anchoring the Cadets to the 3,200m relay championship as she cemented herself as one of the best distance runners to ever come out of Colorado.
Most Clutch Underclass Performance: Pine Creek freshman running back David Moore III
Moore III was the driving catalyst of the Pine Creek offense all season long, racking up 1,585 yards and 18 scores on the ground while leading the Eagles to a 4A state championship. And in the 36-14 title win over Broomfield on Dec. 3, Moore III went off for 201 yards and a touchdown to assert himself as the state’s most promising freshman football player.
Most Dominant Team: Overland High School Boys Basketball
Though the Blazers lost three times over the course of the regular season—albeit to top-tier teams in Eaglecrest, Regis Jesuit and Grandview—coach Danny Fisher’s team was untouchable down the stretch and into the postseason along the way to the team’s second straight 5A title. In the tournament, the team won every game by double digits and its starting lineup of De’Ron Davis, Reggie Gibson, Jervae Robinson, Padiet Wang and Alijah Halliburton was clearly the most talented group of ballers in the state.
Most Dominant School: Valor Christian High School
Valor Christian’s across-the-board performance during the calendar year again underscored the school’s position as the best athletic department in the entire state. A repeat 5A title performance in football, coupled with 4A team titles in girls basketball, girls swimming, baseball, boys lacrosse, cheer and softball give the school 22 championships to date. The scariest part? The Eagles have enough depth and talent to easily eclipse their 2016 performance in 2017.
Darkhorse of the Year: Cherokee Trail High School Baseball
In the spring, the Cougars baseball team ran the table to the program’s second state title thanks to a heavy-hitting lineup and the one-two pitching punch of junior Conner Nantkes and senior Jerome Bohannon. This was, of course, after Cherokee Trail was seeded 13th to end the regular season, so they had to upset No. 4 Heritage on the road in the District 3 title game before defeating No. 2 Cherry Creek once and No. 1 Rocky Mountain three times en route to the 5A championship.
Game of the Year: 5A Boys Soccer Championship Game
Boulder and Broomfield delivered a dandy, as the Front Range League foes scrapped and clawed their way through regulation, overtime and into penalty kicks on Nov. 12 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. There, the Panthers eventually emerged with their second 5A state championship after 14 heart-thumping rounds of penalty kicks. At one point, it appeared Broomfield had won its third straight title after blocking a PK, but the referees ruled Eagles goalie Jose Ogaz came off his line early, and the instant-classic of a match went on.
Controversy of the Year: The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI)
Coaches, players, parents and fans certainly spent more time complaining about the RPI this year than about any other issue in high school sports. The clamoring began in the spring with baseball and escalated into the fall with the football playoffs, when the system left teams like 4A Loveland (9-1) out of the postseason while a couple of 3-7 teams made the 5A playoff field. There’s been talk of changing it—both the football and soccer committees already recommended tweaking the percentages in the formula—so hopefully that will lead to more accurate rankings (and less bellyaching) in 2017.
Most Memorable Moment: Prairie View senior Patrick McKinney scores TD against Cherry Creek
While Cherry Creek’s 54-14 win over Prairie View to close the regular season seemed like just another blowout in a long line of blowouts caused by the waterfall realignment, one particular play in the game transcended sport. Prairie View’s Patrick McKinney, a senior with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair, notched the game’s final touchdown to the roar of the crowd and both sidelines—a play that reminded us there’s a much bigger picture to high school sports than what the scoreboard says at the end of the night.