Coach: Dwight Hale, 9th season
Last year: 3-8, 3-2 5A South
Returning athletes: Jared Bilstein, sr., DT; Gaboric Decker, sr., K; Carter Furbush, sr., SS; Seth LaWalker-Bosie, jr., G; Jason Rhoten, sr., DE; Kade Unberhagen, sr., WR
Other top athletes: Kaden Becker, so., QB; Chris Dwyer, sr., DT; Connor Eggleton, jr., WR; Dylan Mercer, jr., RB; Drew Reichart, jr., WR; Trenton Rogers, jr., ILB; Dylan Roney, sr., C; Dayne Savidge, sr., RB; Mikey Smith, so., DT; Jevon Young, so., DB
Outlook: “With a team that has minimal returners with varsity experience … opportunity for tremendous growth in our short season,” Hale said. “Having the opportunity to build character in our young men through the game of football provides excitement.”
Notes: Doherty is the only local school competing in Class 5A. Pine Creek will compete in 5A South, but will have the opportunity to qualify for the 4A postseason.
Pine Creek Eagles
Coach: Todd Miller, 16th season
Last year: 13-1, 5-0 4A Southern, 4A state champions
Returning athletes: Edward Bowman, jr., DL; Collin Chatman, sr., athlete; Beau Freyler, sr., athlete; Braden Kramer, jr., TE; Branyon Murdock, sr., OL; PJ Platt, sr., OL; Gavin Wetzel, jr., OSLB
Other top athletes: Caden Anderson, jr., DB; Caden Bellew, sr., QB; Ian Carroll, sr., athlete; Ty Drew Deppe, OL; Josh Ewald, jr., athlete; Marcus Glass, sr., DL; Zion Hill, jr., RB; Logan Nobe, jr., LB; Kael Reeves-dunbar, jr., DL; Elias Rogers, sr., RB; JoJo Roy, jr., QB; Sam Stearman, jr., LB; Brason Vanaman, jr., athlete
Outlook: Miller said he is “extremely thankful” and excited to be playing and coaching this season.
Notes: Pine Creek will look to replace a large, talented senior class coming off a 4A state championship. Beau Freyler returns after a stellar junior season in which he led Pine Creek with 73 tackles and is one of the top Colorado prospects in the Class of 2021. He received 23 Division I offers and is committed to Iowa State.
Air Academy Kadets
Coach: Scott Grinde, 6th season
Last year: 6-4, 2-3 4A Pikes Peak
Returning athletes: Sam Beers, so., RB/DB; Are’an Burr, sr., LB/TE; Giovanni Del’Pontone, sr., DB/RB; Jamon Ehrig, sr., DB/WR; Chris Goetzmann, sr., OL/DL; Nick Goetzmann, sr., LB/OL; Tanner Rawlins, sr., DL/OL; Jaxson Sak-Bachini, sr., OL/DL
Other top athletes: Bruce Johnson, so., OL/DL
Outlook: “I am looking forward to seeing the improvement continue in our program as it has for the past four years,” Grinde said. “We have some young players that I am confident will step up and be a big part of our success. We have great kids who trust the process and strive for excellence each day both on and off the field.”
Notes: Sam Beers had a breakout freshman year in which he ran for more than 1,800 yards and 30 touchdowns and was ranked nationally among the class of 2023. The Kadet offense put up more than 2,400 yards rushing last season behind an offensive line that will feature at least four returners.
Fountain-Fort Carson Trojans
Coach: Jake Novotny, 5th season
Last year: 3-8, 2-3 5A South
Returning athletes: Isaac Barker, sr., OL; Tai Faavae, so., LB/RB; Jayden Fuller, sr., OL; Q Jones, sr., RB; Divante Lynch, sr., CB; Collin McCarthy, sr. FB/DL; Malik McClarity, sr., WR; Nick Neely, sr., LB; Dezmen Oliver, jr., RB; Trey Porter, sr., DL; Wyatt Price, sr., QB/LB; Rickey Rivera, sr., WR; Ray Salvatore, sr., DL; Thomas Schneider, sr., OL; TaShon Smith, sr., S; Tavian Tuli, so., QB; Tino Tuli, sr., OLB/TE
Outlook: “What is exciting is that we have 26 seniors and 20 of them are returning starters or players who have contributed to the varsity team over the past three years,” Novotny said. “Q Jones (1,400 yards rushing in 5A in 2018) is healthy and has fresh legs. Coupling him with Dezmen Oliver (1,200 yards rushing in 5A in 2019) will be a lethal attack. Sophomore QB Tavian Tuli looks to build on his success as freshman last year as the leader of the offense. Defensively, we have the fastest group of players in five years. They are led by Nick Neely and TaShon Smith.”
Notes: The Trojans hope to have running back Q Jones for the entire shortened season after the now-senior suffered season-ending injuries the past two years after putting up 1,400 yards in his first nine games.
Mesa Ridge Grizzlies
Coach: Rob Braaten, 15th season
Last year: 5-5, 2-3 4A Southern
Returning athletes: Niko Allgood, jr., RB/LB; Cash Cheeks, jr., WR/DB; Elijah Davis, jr., RB/LB; Jasiah Henderson, sr., RB/DB; D’John Hudson, sr., RB/LB; Thane Humiston, jr., OL/DL; Jeffrey Presley, sr., OL; Justin Johnson, sr., TE/DB; Elijah Ross, sr., RB/DL; John Soto, sr., WR/DB
Other top athletes: Jaden McBroom, jr., WR/DB; Killian Sher, so., OL/DL
Outlook: Braaten said he is excited to get back on the field with his team following a “long, but productive, offseason.”
Notes: As a sophomore Elijah Davis led the Grizzlies with 83 tackles, followed by Cheeks with 78. Mesa Ridge also returns two of its top rushers in Elijah Ross and Jasiah Henderson, who had 450 and 275 yards, respectively.
Coach: Troy Ward, 7th season
Last year: 5-5, 4-1 4A PPAC
Returning athletes: Thomas Boyle, sr., WR, OLB; CJ Brown, sr., DL; Rand Butler, jr., WR, DB; Coleman Caldwell, sr., TE, DL; Logan Candelaria, jr., RB, LB; Cale Cormaney, sr., QB, FS; Eric Haslett, sr., OL, MLB; Gabe Knapp, sr., TE, MLB; Luke Pavlica, sr., WR, DB; Lauiloa Poloa, jr., OL/DL; Dalton Slaughter, sr., OL/DL; David Toney, sr., WR, DB; Aaron Toney, sr., WR, DB; Jaydon Young, sr., OL/DL; Koby Young, sr., WR/DB; Dominic Vialpando, jr., RB, LB
Other top athletes: Quintin Klich, jr., OL/LB; Noah Ramos, jr. WR, DB; Roman Valdez, so., WR; Noah Zimmerman, jr., OL/DL
Outlook: “Our student athletes are excited for the opportunity to play. More than ever, they have learned to cherish the ability to compete together,” Ward said. “Their attitudes and work effort never wavered. We have a very experienced group of seniors that will lead us and our team will go as far as they take us.”
Notes: As a junior Cormaney ran for a team-high 1,118 yards and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. He also had a .578 completion percentage with 672 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Knapp returns as the Rams’ top defender with 80 tackles as a junior while Brown led the team with 16 tackles for a loss and four sacks.
Vista Ridge Wolves
Coach: Jason Cauley, 2nd season
Last year: 5-5, 3-2 4A Southern
Returning athletes: Ahmir Braxton, sr., CB; Keyon Burris, sr., WR; Xavier Cisneros, jr., CB; Brayden Dorman, so., QB; Cameron Fouts, sr., OL; Isaiah Garcia, jr., WR; BeBe Hills, so., WR; Justis Laulu, jr., DL; Christopher Livingstone, sr., K; Josh Romain, sr., SS
Other top athletes: Darrell Davis, sr., RB; Daniel Duran, jr., FS; Josh Rowe, sr., OL; Gannon Rowlan, sr., OLB; Sam Stowers, sr., C
Outlook: Cauley said he is most excited for his senior class and their opportunity to play this fall.
Notes: Brayden Dorman threw for 1,908 yards as a freshman to emerge as one of the top Colorado recruits for the class of 2023. Dorman earned his first Division I offer to Iowa State this summer.
Coach: Jay Saravis, 4th season
Last year: 4-6, 1-4 4A Southern
Returning athletes: Brayden Bethart, sr., OL/LB; Jake Boley, sr., OL/LB; Nico Gagliardi, jr., B/DE; Brad Helton, sr., WR/DB; Morgan Sciotto, sr., TE/LB; Dom Seaton, so., WR/DB; Seth Noyes, sr., OL/DL; Brendan Soler, sr., TE/DE
Other top athletes: Daymond Hill, sr., RB/DB
Outlook: Saravis said his team has, “Great team work ethic and chemistry.”
Notes: Dom Seaton averaged 125 total yards per game as a freshman and led the team with 262 rushing yards. Daymond Hill had 858 rushing yards and seven touchdowns for Doherty last season.
Coach: Erick Gossage, 4th season
Last year: 4-6, 2-3 4A Pikes Peak
Returning athletes: Anthony Jay, sr., OL/DL; Brandon Killough, sr., OL/DL; Joe Shaver, jr., LB/OL; Aiden Swanson, jr., QB; Austin Trujillo, sr., WR/DB; Bryson WIlliams, sr., RB/DB
Other top athletes: Mustafa Doria, sr. QB/WR/DB; Jake Parzych, sr. DL/TE
Outlook: “I am really excited about our depth this year,” Gossage said. “Our offensive and defensive lines will determine how far we go.”
Notes: Two of Liberty’s four wins from a season ago are included on the Lancers’ shortened schedule, kicking off with a nonconference opener against Air Academy on Friday. Last year Liberty defeated the Kadets 37-28 in the final game of the regular season.
Coach: Phillip Naple, 1st season
Returning athletes: Alfredo Arciniega-Hernandez, jr., nose; Robert Clark, sr., WR/CB; Nate Jahner, sr., E; Brima Kamara, sr., WR/S; Jaiveon Kendrick, sr., RB; Caiden Maes, jr., LB; Carlos Moreno, sr., QB; Joe Naple, jr., LB/athlete; Jarin Norwood, jr., E/WR; Nate Randle, sr., SS/WR; Josiah Richardson, sr., FS/WR; Reace Zollicoffer, sr., C/nose
Outlook: Naple, who has spent the past two seasons as an assistant, said he is most excited just to get back on the field with a “young energetic group of players with limitless abilities, who are very exciting to watch.”
Coach: Dustin Tupper, 15th season
Last year: 4-6, 1-4 3A Central
Returning athletes: Breckin Davis, sr., WR/FS; Jakob Hatton, sr., OL; Tevin Knost, sr., FB/LB; Damian Leue, sr., OT/DT; Cameron Lowe, jr., S/WR; Eddie Speller, jr., TE/DE; Jordan Vasconcellos, sr., CB/WR
Outlook: “The kids are excited and hungry,” Tupper said. “(We have) new skill positions in the backfield and some returning difference makers at WR.”
Notes: Tupper described Davis as the “heart and soul” of his team. Last year Davis had 382 receiving yards and three touchdowns and also put in work on special teams … Lewis-Palmer will compete in the 3A Colorado league alongside Discovery Canyon and Mitchell.
Coach: Jerimi Calip, 1st season
Last year: 2-8, 2-3 3A Southern
Returning athletes: Demetrius Biglow, sr., WR/DB; Macy Davenport, sr., QB; Quinton Elmore, jr., OL/DL; Roman Evangelista, sr., OL; Marcus Ford, sr., RB/FS; Cruz Garcia, jr., LB; Osbaldo Sanchez, jr., H-back/LB; Edward Scott, jr., LB/QB; Matthew Thompson, sr., WR/DB; Christian Zamora, jr., LB
Outlook: In his first season with the Marauders, Calip is most excited about simply being able to play this fall.
Notes: Mitchell has put together two consecutive two-win seasons, and hopes the offseason hiring of Calip, who led Vista Ridge to a 34-21 record from 2014-2018, will prove to be the first step toward building a winning program.
Canon City Tigers
Coach: Tom O’Rourke, 31st season
Last year: 3-7, 3-2 3A Southern
Returning athletes: Tim Bosse, sr., RB/LB; Seth Newton, sr., WR/DB; Dylan O’Rourke, jr., RB/LB; Josh Rall, sr., QB/DB; Tristen Rowe LB/RB; Josh Smith, sr., OL/DL
Other top athletes: Coletin Renn, jr., WR/LB; Lucas Walcott, sr., QB/DB
Outlook: O’Rourke said he is most excited for the opportunity to play this fall, and has a “good group of seniors who are excited to play.”
Notes: Seth Newton and Josh Rall combined for nearly 800 receiving yards last year. Dylan O’Rourke is the team’s top returning rusher. Tim Bosse is the top returning defender with 80 tackles as a junior. Tristen Rowe was second on the team in tackles with 64 and had a team-high eight tackles for a loss.
Woodland Park Panthers
Coach: Joe Roskam, 10th season
Last year: 6-4, 2-2 2A Tri-Peaks
Returning athletes: Tyler Baldus, sr., WR; Bryson Cox, sr., TE/DE; Adam Garner, jr., OL/DL; Eli Garner, jr., DE/FB; Darren Genger, sr., LB; Andrew Harper, jr., FS/KR; Colin Kucera, sr., QB; Mason Pyles, jr., QB; Gilbert Ramirez, sr., WR/CB; Braden Roskam, sr., RB/SS; Colton Simonis, sr., SS; Jacob Simpson, sr., OL; Griffin Owens, sr., OT; Jake Wilkinson, sr., LB
Other top athletes: Cy Dellinger, jr., WR/DB; Jackson Dornsbach, so., TE/LB; Curt Doty, sr. C; JT Hatton, jr., OT; Aiden Hernandez, so., DT/RB; Tyler Larkin, sr., OG; Noah Nelson, so., OL/DL; Alex Vonderharr, jr., K
Outlook: “Coming off a No. 16 finish with a ton of returning talent and a group of seniors that have played together since flag football in first grade, we are excited to see what this group can do this season,” Roskam said.
Notes: The Panthers have 16 returning starters, including returning quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and four offensive linemen. Last year quarterback Colin Kucera threw for 1,539 yards and 18 touchdowns and Braden Roskam ran for nearly 400 yards.
Colorado Springs Christian Lions
Coach: Kay Kersey, 17th season
Last year: 8-3, 3-1 1A Tri-Peaks
Returning athletes: Rian Chavez, sr., OL; Joe Dunn, sr., RB; Jordan Palumbo, sr., CB; Caleb Stockton, sr., QB
Outlook: “We are just happy to be playing,” Kersey said. “I feel like if we can stay healthy, we can compete for a league championship and a playoff spot.”
Notes: The Lions lost 1,200-yard rusher Peyton Brones to graduation, but return Joe Dunn and Caleb Stockton, who were responsible for nearly 1,200 combined rushing yards as juniors last season. Stockton also threw for 904 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Coach: Luke Billington, 5th season
Last year: 4-4, 2-2 8-Man Southern
Returning athletes: Cody Acre, jr., C/NT; Ryan Campbell, jr., RB/LB; Brandon Eglinton, sr., QB/DE; Aiden Jack, so., TE/LB; Jordan Mast, jr., RG/NT; Zach Peterson, jr., WR/CB
Other top athletes: Wyatt Chamberlain, jr., LG/NT; Alex Closson, sr., RB/ DE
Outlook: “We have all our starters back but two and we have filled those positions with two very capable young men,” Billington said. “Our kids have worked very hard since June 1 and we are excited to have all that work pay off.”
Notes: Eglinton was a dynamic playmaker for the Bulldogs last season, throwing for 513 yards and rushing for another 587. As a freshman Jack led the team with 87 total tackles, while Eglinton had a team-high seven sacks.
Teams not included did not respond to The Gazette’s preview questionnaire by deadline.