5A Conference Preview

Defensive minded the 2013 Centennial conference boasts many of the state's top players on the defensive side of the ball.

Preseason Favorite: Cherokee Trail

Cherokee Trail brings back 12 starters from a squad that pushed Valor for the 5A state title last season. Most importantly Cherokee Trail returns eight starters from one of last season's top defenses. Colorado bound Evan White is a ball hawking playmaker in coverage that is also not afraid to mix it up in the box. Not as heralded, but every bit as important to the Cougar's D are steady playmakers Thomas Thordvedt at safety and linebacker Caleb Barnum. This defense is crazy fast and not only will stymie opponents but also create opportunities for the offense.

On offense quarterback Aric Johnson returns. An underrated performer, especially for a player that posted over 2,000 yards of offense last season, Johnson is a dualthreat that will make the right play at the right time. Look for running back Cameron Smith to have a big year if the offense line anchored by massive tackle Colt Jones can click early.

Contender: Cherry Creek

The Bruins went 6-5 last season and have the talent toimprove on that record with Dave Logan and staff working with a year under their belts. Defense is the strength for the Bruins in 2013 with safety Jaeden Graham, linebackers Stanford Cooper, Matt Rindal and Brett Hollenbeck running free behind talented 290 pound nose tackle Michael Thompson.

The Bruins will have to replace numerous key offensive losses with Junior Joseph Parker back as the top receiver. If nationally recruited running back Nate Starks is allowed to play for Creek, he is talented enough to add two games to the win column.

Sleeper: Grandview

Aggressive defense, steady offensive play and great coaching are the reasons the Wolves are in the mix. The playmakers are inexperienced with the loss of receiver Tanner Gentry and quarterback Reece Weber. Veteran lineman Gabe Cirillo and crew have to get the job done up front as the skill players find their footing.

Like the rest of the league defense is the key as Grandview returns numerous playmakers. Defensive back Sean Kopel makes plays all over the field posting 5.5 sacks to go with 68 total tackles. Linebacker Kolten Johnson has a knack for the big play as well, with 10 tackles for losses last season.

Best of the Rest:

Overland is scary with the state's best athlete Austin Conway always a threat to make a big play. Add in a defense with linebackers Tre Thomas and AJ Roper as well as corner Deante Manlove and the Trailblazers could surprise. Smoky Hill under new Head Coach Justin Hoffman boasts one of the best throw, catch combos in Colorado as quarterback Trent Clay returns with receiver Frank Thomas.Eaglecrest never lacks for talent, but the loss of numerous players to graduation puts the Raptors behind in this very tough conference.

Offensive Player of the Year: Austin Conway

Defensive Player of the Year: Evan White

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