8-Man and 6-Man Top 10 Breakdown
Much more action inside the top 10 in both 8-man and 6-man. I still decided to combine both this week but next week we will move to each Class having their own article.
#1 Sedgwick County at Simla
Sedgwick County opens the year as your defending 4-time state champions and are going for the rare 5-peat. Sedgwick County will have some new faces this year with 6 seniors graduating. Sedgwick County will have a new starter at QB with Jared Ehmke taking over. The RB position will also have a new #1 back with Beau Parker looking for a breakout year. Sedgwick County offensively I think stays very deadly this year. Defensively Sedgwick County is returning a ton of talent with 7 of their top 11 tacklers returning. Simla will get the first shot at Sedgwick County in 2019. Simla went 7-2 last year and reached the playoffs. This year Simla looks to make a deeper run but have a few holes to fill. Simla will be looking for a new QB with possibly Coletin Mazerall filling that spot. At RB Darias Harms returns and hopes to build off his 1000 yards season. Defensively Simla returns 7 of their top 11 tacklers but 4 of their top 5 tacklers are graduating. Looking at Sedgwick County I think the main story for them is can they start the season out the gates hot and replace key players that left for graduation. For Simla the main story is can their defense replace key leadership players.
#2 Mancos at Plateau Valley
Mancos opens my preseason poll at #2 just ahead of Merino who upset them in the first round of the playoffs last year. Mancos went 9-0 during the regular season to win the Mountain Division and are the early favorites to win it again. Mancos is going to have a few holes to fill on the offensive line with possibly 2 or 3 starters graduating also the RB position will have to be filled as well. Mancos will return QB Breccen Morelli who threw for 538 yards and ran for another 648 yards. Mancos also will return #2 & #3 rusher Anthony Medina and Chase Moore. Mancos on defense should be very good with 9 of their top 11 tacklers including 5 of their top 6. Plateau Valley went 2-7 last year and missed the playoffs and will hope to rebound and get to the playoffs. Plateau Valley will have some holes to fill with 10 seniors graduating. Plateau Valley will be looking for a new QB and RB this year along with possibly 2 or 3 starters on the offensive line. Plateau Valley could be rebuilding their defensive unit as well with only 5 of their top 11 tacklers returning. Looking at this game a couple things to keep in mind for both teams will be: Can Mancos replace their missing players on the offensive line and for Plateau Valley can these upcoming Senior and Junior turn this program around.
#3 Merino vs #8 Pikes Peak Christian
The Game of the Week in 8-man is a Top 10 matchup! Merino hosts Pikes Peak Christian. Merino had an interesting season last year going 7-5 but reaching the semifinals. Merino struggled in league until the end where a few key victors got them into the playoffs and once into the playoffs they played outstanding. Merino is losing 6 players from last year’s team and some key offensive linemen and the #1 rusher. Merino will be returning QB Cade Conger who threw for 756 yards and ran for another 704 yards. His experience will be crucial for Merino. #2 rusher Trent Elliott also returns and should have a break out year. Defensively Merino returns 6 of their top 11 tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 5. Pikes Peak Christian reached the semifinals a year ago going 10-2. Pikes Peak Christian played good in the playoffs and were just one game short of the state championship. Pikes Peak Christian will have some holes to fill this year with 7 seniors graduating including some key offensive linemen. The big returners for this Pikes Peak Christian offense will be at QB and RB. QB Jackson Thorne is back for his senior year and he had a solid year throwing for 813 yards and 20 TDs. #1 and #2 rusher also return for Pikes Peak Christian, Hudson Grant and Sean McKinley. Defensively Pikes Peak Christian returns 7 of their top 11 tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 6. The main storylines for this game are: Can Merino replace the key losses on the offensive line. If Merino can replace those starters watch out for this offense. Also, can Merino defense fill the leadership void left. The main Storylines for Pikes Peak Christian are can the offensive line come together. Pikes Peak Christian offense should also be dangerous, but the offensive line must be solid.
#4 Fowler vs Swink
Fowler opens the 2019 season against Swink. Fowler last year went 7-3 and got into the playoffs. Fowler of course will have a few holes to fill with 6 seniors graduating. Key leadership players and a few offensive linemen must be replaced. QB Luke Bitter will return for his senior year and he hopes to have a break out year. Last year Bitter threw for 493 yards and ran for another 228 yards. The RB position will be losing the #1 back but Jackson Bates should have a big year for Fowler. Defensively Fowler returns 7 of their top 11 tacklers but are losing some key leadership players. Swink struggled a bit last season going 2-7 and just 1-5 in league. Swink is hoping to improve this season and losing just 2 seniors from last year should help this team go in the right direction. Swink will return QB Chad Martin along with RB’s Matthew Mendoza and Noah Zumwalt. Defensively Swink returns their entire top 11 tacklers. The big thing for Swink is can they take steps to really improve on both side of the ball this year. The main story line for Fowler is can they replace the seniors lost by graduation. Most were in key leadership spots.
#5 Caliche vs Gilpin County
Caliche open the 2019 season against Gilpin County. Caliche went 8-3 last year and got into the playoffs. Caliche reached the quarterfinals last year and hope for a deeper run in the playoffs this year. Caliche is losing a big senior class with 10 seniors graduating. At least 2 or 3 starters on the offensive line are gone along with do it all RB/MLB Adam Zink. I do not think though that Caliche will take a step back and just reload. Caliche will look to QB Dylan Huss to have a break out year along with RB Ezekiel Johnson. Defensively Caliche should be flying around this year with 7 of their top 11 tacklers returning but the main replacement will be the leadership of Adam Zink. Gilpin County struggled last year going 0-9. Gilpin County was in a bit of a rebuild last year and are losing just 4 seniors. We should see Gilpin County take steps to be better this year. QB/RB Stephen King is back for his Junior year along with QB Blake Boulter. Gilpin County defensively also returns 9 of their 11 top tacklers many of them sophomores and freshman last year. I think Gilpin County is a year away still from really competing for a league crown and playoff spot, but we should start seeing this team compete. For Caliche my biggest concern is their offensive line, and can they replace the leadership and skill of graduating seniors.
#7 Sanford at McClave
Sanford opens the 2019 season against McClave. Sanford went 6-3 last year and missed the playoffs. Sanford had two key losses at the end of the year to Dove Creek and Sargent that made the miss the playoffs. Sanford will be reloading and hoping for a playoff spot this year. Sanford is losing 6 seniors from last years team with key leaders graduating. The QB position will have to be replaced but expect Clay Canty to fill that hole. Clay Canty also played RB and had a solid season rushing for 859 yards. The #2 rusher Kelton Gartrell and #3 rusher Thomas Faucette both return as well. The offensive line should also remain mostly in tact this year with just 1 starter graduating. Sanford defensively returns 7 of their top 11 tacklers including 3 of their top 5. The defense for Sanford must improve this year. McClave was a team I had thought should make the playoffs last year but struggled a bit going 3-6 and missing the playoffs. McClave is losing 8 seniors from last years team and most were starters on both sides of the ball. This year McClave is hoping to have a better year but a lot of inexperience players will have to step up. The big story line for Sanford will be can this defense take the next step and be dominate. Also, can Sanford offensively dominate teams with the amount of talent coming back.
#10 Holly vs Dayspring Christian
This game between Holly and Dayspring Christian was a very close second to the game of the week. This should be a great game between two closely matched teams. Holly went 8-3 last year and reached the quarterfinals. Holly will have some key players to replace with 9 seniors graduating. The offensive line will be looking to replace possibly 2 starters this year. Holly also will be looking to replace 2000 yards passer Kobe Davis. Dakota Eaton will be taking over at QB this year and hoping to find the same success Davis did. At RB Holly will be replacing their #1 rusher but look for #2 rusher Andy Ramos to have a breakout year for Holly. Defensively Holly will have 5 of their 11 top tacklers returning but are losing their top 3 tacklers from last year. Dayspring Christian is hoping to have a better regular season this year. Dayspring Christian went 4-5 last year but still reached the playoffs. Dayspring Christian will be losing 7 seniors from last years team with possibly 2 starters on the offensive line graduating. Dayspring Christian will have a lot of talent coming back. QB Christian Still will be back for his Junior year and look for Still to really have a monster year. Dayspring Christian will have to find a new starter at RB but Caden Bonnell should fill the void. The only other big loss on offense will be at WR were Dayspring Christian is losing their top 3 WR’s. Defensively Dayspring Christian returns 7 of their top 11 tacklers including 3 of their top 5. Dayspring Christian will have some leadership to replace. This should be a great game and a few questions arise. For Holly can they replace the QB position and the leadership on defense. For Dayspring Christian, the main question is can their offense come together and can this defense dominate this year.
#1 Stratton/Liberty vs #2 Kit Carson
The 6-man Game of the Week features the Top 2 teams in 6-man in the preseason poll. Stratton/Liberty is your defending state champion. Stratton/Liberty put it all together in the playoffs winning all 4 games by 30+ points. Stratton/Liberty is losing a good senior class of 5 and will have to find leadership on both sides of the ball. Stratton/Liberty will be looking for a new QB with Zeke Craig or Ignacio Baixas trying to fill the position. At RB Stratton/Liberty returns Jaret Lichty but also look Riggin Williams to step up and have a big year. Defensively Stratton/Liberty is returning 3 of their 8 top tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 5 tacklers. Kit Carson reached the state championship game a year ago but came up short. Kit Carson will be looking to avenge that loss plus win it all this year. In my mind Kit Carson is the early favorite to win it all. Kit Carson is losing just 2 seniors from last years team and this team looks like it could be dangerous this year. Kit Carson will have to replace their QB from last year and possibly look for Cordell Farmer to fill that hole. The RB position is very solid with top rusher Joe Bryan and #2 rusher Cordell Farmer coming back. If Cordell Farmer moves to QB look for Daniel Arnold or Jason Mccombs-Farmer to step into the #2 spot. Kit Carson defensively returns 6 of their top 8 tacklers but are losing 2 of their top 4. The big storylines for each team are: Can Stratton/Liberty replace the starters lost on the defensive side of the ball and can this offense be at dominate as last year. For Kit Carson the storylines are can Kit Carson handle the pressure of being the early favorite to win it all and who will play the QB position.
#3 Fleming vs #7 Idalia
Another Top 10 matchup in the opening weekend pits #3 Fleming vs #7 Idalia. This was a very close second for game of the week, but a rematch of the state championship is just to hard not to pick. Fleming went 7-4 last year and reached the quarterfinals. Fleming is hoping to make a much deeper run this year and have the talent to do so. Fleming is losing just 1 senior from last year’s team. Fleming returns QB Kade Comstock who had a solid junior year throwing for 1178 yards. Fleming also returns #1 and #2 rushers Brandon Williams and Brady Kuntz. Fleming offense should be dominate this year. Defensively Fleming returns all 8 top tacklers. Fleming will have a lot of pressure this year to make a run for a state championship. Idalia went 4-6 last year and got into the playoffs. Idalia took steps in the right direction to make a big run this year. Idalia is losing some talent from last years team with 5 seniors graduating. Idalia though will have QB Dax Towns back for his senior year. Towns will look to have an improved season this year. At RB Idalia must replace 1500-yard rusher Sam McGinnis but look for Yahir Enriquez and Jace Juhnke to have breakout years. Defensively Idalia returns 5 of their top 8 tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 5. Idalia defensive unit will have to really step up this year. The big question for Idalia is can Enriquez replace McGinnis and can the defense replace the 3 senior leaders. The big question for Fleming is can they handle the pressure of being a favorite to win it all and can their team really step up this year and dominate on both sides of the ball.
#4 Cheyenne Wells vs Otis
Cheyenne Wells opens their 2019 season against Otis. Both teams have been playoff contenders and should be a good game for both teams. Cheyenne Wells went 5-4 last year and reached the playoffs falling to Fleming in the first round. Cheyenne Wells is hoping for a deeper run this year with just 2 seniors graduating. Cheyenne Wells returns QB Kyle Nelson who had a solid year throwing for 708 yards and 9 TDs. RB/QB Quade Pelton also returns and he also had a good year throwing for 652 yards and rushing for 763 yards. Cheyenne Wells will be looking for a #2 RB to step forward this year. Cheyenne Wells will return 6 of their top 8 tacklers on defense next year. Expect both Pelton and Nelson to have big years for Cheyenne Wells. Otis went 7-4 last year and reached the quarterfinals where they lost a shootout 84-78 to Peetz. Otis is losing some key pieces from last years team with 6 players graduating. Otis will be looking to reload the offense this year with both QB and RB’s graduating. Tyler Reynolds will be looking to fill the QB position and Christian Nation will hope to have a breakout year at RB. Defensively Otis will return 4 of their top 8 tackles but are losing 3 of their top 5. Nation and Hisam will have to step up at leaders this year. The big question for Otis this year is do they have players who can fill the offensive production of Bryce Miracle and can the younger kids step up on defense. The big question for Cheyenne Wells is who can step up and be the #2 RB for this team.
#5 Prairie at Hanover
Prairie opens their 2019 season against Hanover. Prairie went 7-4 last year and reached the quarterfinals. Prairie has been a playoff contender for the past couple years, and I don’t expect anything different this year. Prairie will have some seniors to replace with 9 graduating, but this team will not be rebuilding instead they will just reload. Prairie will be returning QB Mitch Dollerschell who had a solid season throwing for 1058 yards and 18 TDs. The RB position is a bit more in question with the top 3 rushers graduating. Prairie will be looking for Patrick Thompson to step up and have a breakout year. Defensively Prairie is returning 4 of their top 8 tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 5. Senior leadership will be the biggest thing to replace on this defense. Hanover went 3-6 last year and missed the playoffs. Hanover will have some key players to replace with 6 seniors graduating. Hanover will have QB Dalton Sweazy back for his sophomore year and look for him to show big improvement. The RB position will have a few holes to replace with the #1 and #2 rushers graduating. David Brown will do his best to fill the hole. Defensively Hanover returns 3 of their top 8 tacklers and will have to replace 4 of their top 5. Hanover, I think is a year away from really competing and I think 2020 will be a big year for them. The big question for Hanover is can their younger players show big improvement this year. The big question for Prairie must be can Prairie replace the senior leadership and RB’s.
#6 Flagler/Hi Plains at Briggsdale
Flagler/Hi Plains vs Briggsdale is a near top 10 matchup with Briggsdale sitting at #11 in the preseason poll. I think this could be a great matchup between two teams trying to get started on the right foot. Flagler/Hi Plains went 4-6 last year and made the playoffs. Flagler/Hi Plains is hoping to make a deeper run in the playoffs this year and avoid a first-round exit. Flagler/Hi Plains will be losing some senior leadership with 9 players graduating. Flagler/Hi Plains will though be returning some talent. QB Zayd Banks will be back and hope to improve from last year. Banks threw for 809 yards and 13 TDs. The RB position will need to find a new #1 back and look for Chris Hile and Cody Banks to step up and have breakout years. Defensively Flagler/Hi Plains returns 4 of their top 8 tacklers including 4 of their top 5 tacklers. Leadership will be they’re on defense, but younger players will have to step up to fill the holes on defense. Briggsdale went 3-6 last year and 1-4 in league to miss the playoffs. Briggsdale lost 3 straight games to end the year to miss the playoffs one of which was to Flagler/Hi Plains. Briggsdale will have some seniors to replace with 8 graduating. Briggsdale biggest returner will be at QB with Tyler Blickem coming back for his senior year. Blickem threw for 2368 yards and 36 TDs. His top target Zachary Bauer also returns but depth must be found at WR. The #1 rusher for Briggsdale also graduates but Kaleb Brown should be able to fill the position. Briggsdale defensively returns 5 of their top 8 tacklers but lose their top 3 tacklers. Leadership must be found for Briggsdale defense. This is going to be a very good game and I will have a hard time predicting this game. The big question for Flagler/Hi Plains is: Can Flagler/Hi Plains replace their #1 RB and can QB position improve this year. Briggsdale biggest question is: Can Briggsdale improve enough defensively to help their offense win games.
#8 Cotopaxi vs Edison
Cotopaxi opens their 2019 season against Edison. Cotopaxi kind of surprised me last year going 7-3 and making the playoffs. Cotopaxi lost a very good senior class in 2017 and they had a lot of younger players really step up. This year Cotopaxi is losing just 1 senior from last year’s team and could be poised to have a big year. Cotopaxi returns QB Peter Belt who threw for 805 yards and 12 TDs. Cotopaxi will have to find a #1 RB, but Tyler Sawyer and Frank Ogden should both have a breakout years for Cotopaxi. Defensively Cotopaxi returns 7 of their top 8 tacklers including their top 6. Esselstine and Ogden are the senior leaders this year and must have massive years if Cotopaxi plans to try and win the Southwest League and a playoff game. Edison went 4-4 last year and missed the playoffs. Edison did not post stats and had 4 seniors on their team last year. Edison also had 0 juniors last year so this team will be upcoming Juniors, sophomores and freshmen coming into high school. Since I don’t know much about Edison, I will say that this team must make big strides this year to be competitive in 2020. The big question for Cotopaxi will be can this team upset/takeaway the league crown for Mountain Valley and CAN a Southwest League team win a playoff game?
#9 North Park at Arickaree/Woodlin
North Park opens the 2019 season against traditional power Arickaree/Woodlin who opens the year unranked. North Park went 3-6 last year and made the playoffs. North Park big win over Briggsdale got them into the playoffs and the experience will be crucial for this team. North Park is losing just 3 seniors from last years team granted some of them were big contributors for this team. North Park will have QB Destry Schmidt back who threw for 232 yards and 3 TDs. Schmidt must have a big year for North Park this year. At RB they are losing Bryce Carlstrom who ran for 1612 yards. Eli Houston and Carlos Gonzales will be needed to have breakout years for North Park. North Park defensively returns 6 of their top 8 tacklers including their top 3. North Park will need to improve on defense this year. Arickaree/Woodlin went 8-3 last year and reached the semifinals. Arickaree/Woodlin posted no stats and makes it hard to project a team. Arickaree/Woodlin is losing 5 seniors from last years team. I am guessing Arickaree/Woodlin will be looking for a replacement at QB and RB this year. Alan McCaffrey should be able to fill in at QB and at RB Elijah Myers should fill that hole. Besides that, I don’t know much about Arickaree/Woodlin. The big question for North Park is can someone replace the offensive production of Carlstorm and can they stay health.
#10 Mountain Valley vs Cheraw
Mountain Valley opens the year against Cheraw and will have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Mountain Valley was not ranked very high in the opening CHSAA poll and I think will be a dangerous team this year. Mountain Valley went 8-1 last year going undefeated during the regular season but falling to Granada in the first round 40-7. Mountain Valley got valuable experience in the playoffs and hope that can turn into another Southwest title and a playoff win. Mountain Valley is losing just 3 seniors from last years team. At QB will be Salvador Vigil who threw for 1265 yards and 20 TDs. At RB Mountain Valley will have to replace their #1 rusher but Elijah Roberts should fill that hole and have a big season. I also see Tristan Martinez having a big year as well. Defensively Mountain Valley returns 5 of their top 8 tacklers but are losing 3 of their top 5. Ross, Vigil, and Roberts will be crucial for this team on both sides of the ball. Cheraw went 1-7 last year but by the end of the year started playing better football. Cheraw will be losing 2 seniors from last years team. Cheraw should be primed for a better season this year but replacing the senior leadership is key. QB Trey Pearce is back for his junior year and he threw for 482 yards and 9 TDs. The #1 rusher for Cheraw must be replaced and look for Simon Rodriquez or Kaiden Holland to fill that position. Defensively Cheraw will be extremely tough with 7 of their 8 top tacklers returning. Cheraw will have to replace their leading tackler, but Snyder and Rodriquez should help lead the defense. This should also be another good game. The big question for Cheraw will be how much did this team really improve and can they replace their #1 RB from last year. The big question for Mountain Valley is can this defense replace the leadership lost and can the offense have another big year.