A new football frontier

Many area schools change leagues, coaches

Jim Benton
Brian Dawkins Jr., left, and Eric Lee Jr., right, are two senior defensive backs that headline what coach Rod Sherman labels a secondary "that could be as good anybody in the state."
Ryan Boldrey
Douglas County senior Rope Ruel will be under center for the Huskies again this fall. Ruel threw for 1,198 yards and six touchdowns last fall, while running for 422 yards and seven more scores.
Jim Benton
Lutheran's Jamil Bond, left, takes a handoff from quarterback James Willis at practice this past week. Bond ran for 1,315 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall for the Lions and Willis threw for 2,306 yards and 24 scores. The Lions are the No. 1 team in the CHSAANow.Com preseason Class 3A poll.
Ryan Boldrey
Castle View senior Chris Linnin split time at quarterback for the Sabercats a year ago, but will be relied on to lead the offense this fall. Linnin threw for five touchdowns and rushed for two more last season.

The new football league alignments involving south metro teams:

CENTENNIAL (5A): Cherry Creek, Valor Christian, Cherokee Trail, Eaglecrest, Overland, Grandview.

CONTINENTAL NORTH (5A): Rock Canyon, Fruita Monument, Highlands Ranch, Mountain Vista, ThunderRidge, Regis Jesuit.

CONTINENTAL SOUTH (5A): Castle View, Doherty, Fountain-Fort Carson, Legend, Chaparral, Douglas County.

SOUTH METRO (5A): Arapahoe, Heritage, Gateway, Aurora Hinkley, Rangeview, Grand Junction, Smoky Hill.

PLAINS (4A): Ponderosa, Littleton, Dakota Ridge, Green Mountain, J.K. Kennedy, Lincoln.

COLORADO 7 (3A): Englewood, Lutheran, Elizabeth, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan, Skyview, Vista Peak, Weld Central.

The remodeling is completed and a new landscape for south-metro area football teams will be displayed this season.

More than a dozen of the south metro schools covered by Colorado Community Media will be competing in different leagues, and there are six new head coaches that will be making their debuts.

Rod Dobbs takes over for John Vogt at Chaparral; Gene Hill replaces Jeff Ketron at Douglas County; Mark Robinson supplants Darrel Gorham at Highlands Ranch; and Tyler Knoblock is the new mentor at Heritage, succeeding Mike Griebel. Blair Hubbard moves from Faith Christian to Lutheran as Daryl Moe's replacement. Jaron Cohen is the new Ponderosa coach after Jamie Woodruff stepped down.

New league alignments find five-time and defending state champion Valor Christian, an independent the past two seasons, joining the Class 5A Centennial League.

“We're excited about the week in and week out grind,” said Valor coach Rod Sherman. “Most people would argue that it's the best league in the state with just how teams have done over the last couple years. We're getting into the mindset that we are going to play five league games that are going to be four-quarter games and I would guess one or two of them are going to end up in overtime.

“It's going to be a great challenge for us. We're going to have to show up every night in the league just to be in the game at the end of it. We're excited to play teams with great history like Cherry Creek, Grandview and Cherokee Trail. And Eaglecrest and Overland are really growing their programs the last couple years.”

Valor is top-ranked in the CHSAANow.com preseason poll and Cherry Creek is No. 2. Both schools have challenging non-league schedules.

“The Centennial League has been a football power for a long as I've coached,” said Bruins coach Dave Logan. “Now that you add a team like Valor, it just makes it even tougher.”

The erstwhile Class 5A Continental League will be split into the Continental North and South with six additions.

Highlands Ranch, ThunderRidge, Mountain Vista, Regis Jesuit, Rock Canyon and Fruita Monument will be in the Continental North.

The Continental South will have Chaparral, Douglas County, Castle View, Legend, Doherty and Fountain-Fort Carson.

“The new 5A alignment represents an imperfect process but it does a good job of honoring regional rivalries, splitting up private schools and helping out the Western Slope,” said Castle View coach Ryan Hollingshead. “There is some imbalance in the strength of leagues, but it is healthy to have everyone in a competitive environment. No school should be stuck in an impossible league to rebuild year after year.”

Hill, who was elevated from an assistant to the head coaching position at Douglas County, anticipates a competitive title race in the Continental South.

“I really do like it,” he said. “Douglas County, Doherty, Castle View, Legend, Fountain-Fort Carson and Chaparral, I think all of us are pretty even and it will be a dogfight to win this conference.”

Arapahoe and Heritage will be in the Class 5A South Metro Conference. Ponderosa joins holdover Littleton in the Class 4A Plains League, while Englewood, Lutheran and Elizabeth will be members of the Class 3A Colorado 7 loop.

“We are entering the Plains Conference, which does not have many traditional rivalries, but it will be exciting to compete against new programs,” said the Mustangs' Cohen.

Lutheran is the No. 1-ranked in the preseason CHSAANow.com poll and Hubbard brings a wealth of playoff experience with him from Faith Christian.

“There are no teams on the 2014 schedule that the Lions have ever faced previously so there will be many new challenges this season,” said Hubbard.


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