Class 5A Continental football preview

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It’s never a dull weekend for high school football in the Continental League.

Last year, Regis went all the way to the state title game, while Chaparral and Highlands Ranch had themselves a donnybrook for the league’s second-place finish, which went to the Wolverines.

This year, although Highlands Ranch is being rumored as the league favorites by some opposing coaches and Chaparral is once again ranked among the state’s top six, and with Regis having graduated a number of seniors from its 5A runner-up team, the league’s bragging rights could be up in the air.

Highlands Ranch returns seven starters to its offense, including Colorado State University-bound running back and wide receiver Joe Hansley, senior quarterback Steve Donatell, who has verbally committed to Nebraska, and lineman Ed Caldwell, who is sought by the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado School of Mines. Six, including Hansley, also return to the defensive side.

The Falcons’ defense also has new leadership in defensive coordinator Brandon Carlucci, who was the defensive backs coach.

“He brings a ton of energy to the defense and the kids love it,” Falcons coach Darrell Gorham said. “Again we are looking forward to the season. If we stay healthy, we should be in the mix.

“We have several kids returning for this season and should be very competitive in the state.”

As for Chaparral, coach John Vogt returns 22 seniors with a lot of speed and a great sense of teamwork and energy. Among the returning starters, the Wolverines are showing beef in the offensive line and the defensive secondary. They also have a couple key defensive ends back on the line. Overall, the Wolverines field a veteran defense.

“We will be in the hunt,” Vogt said of the league outlook. “(Highlands Ranch) should be good. So should ThunderRidge and Mountain Vista and Regis. (It’s a) tough league every week.”

Like Vogt suggests, ThunderRidge should be in the mix again. In 2010, the Grizzlies finished fourth in league with a 6-5 record. However, this season T-Ridge should field more depth, size and experience.

Cameron Morley, John Trapp and Brody Westmoreland, the team’s core of leadership, return to the roster among 10 returning starters.

“They are kids who care about our team and not just themselves,” coach Joe Johnson said.

Johnson feels the league outlook is up in the air, but Highlands Ranch is favored. As for the Grizzlies, the new season may define them by how quickly they improve between now and when the Continental schedule starts. the coach said.

Mountain Vista, after a 4-6 record and fifth-place finish in the league last year, could be one of the more fun teams to watch. The Golden Eagles’ roster boasts 34 seniors with a good amount of varsity experience, a promise of plenty excitement and no lack of leadership.

“We should be playing an exciting brand of football that will be enjoyable to watch, even to the casual fan,” Vista coach Ric Cash said. “No weak sisters in the Continental ... There are no off weeks.”

Cash said staying healthy and minimizing mistakes should define the Eagles.

Douglas County took a licking in the Continental League last year. They brought up the basement with an 0-6 league record, 2-8 overall. This year, however, there is an excitement brewing over in Huskies country from the team’s new cohesion and leadership.

Among returning senior starters for County are a good number of all-conference honorable mentions, including quarterback Aaron Rosipajla and defensive linemen Patrick O’Bryant and Atticus Yondorf. Kai Perea, a second-team running back, is also back as is defensive back Jake Scholl and offensive back Hayden Jones.

“They are the returning starters, and they are seniors,” Huskies coach Jeff Ketron said. “These kids are a great bunch of kids who have been active in the community, carry a 3.2 (grade-point average) and work hard.

“I think our league is solid from top to bottom. I think, unfortunately, we will beat each other up.”

With a tough league schedule, County may be defined this year by how fast its players grow up.