Sentinel Blogs

Courtney Oakes

Sports Editor for the Aurora Sentinel, grand stands

Aurora Prep

Eaglecrest Invitational again a strong early volleyball test

As usual, the 2014 Eaglecrest Invitational volleyball tournament is a doozy.

One of the better collections of teams from a variety of classifications is set for Friday and Saturday at The Nest, with the host Raptors, defending Class 5A state champion Grandview and Aurora Central representing Aurora in the 13-team field.

Split into three three-team pools and one four-team group, the tournament is set to run pool play beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and concluding Saturday morning before bracket play to decide places.

Coach Tanya Bond’s 1-1 Eaglecrest team is the No. 1 team in Pool 2 — which also includes Brighton (2-1) and Legacy (0-2) — while coach Patty Childress and Grandview (1-2) sit as the top team in the four-team Pool 4, which also features Aurora Central (1-0) in addition to 3A undefeated Eaton (6-0) and fast-starting Denver East (6-1).

Helming Pool 1 is 4A undefeated Cheyenne Mountain (4-0) — which beat Grandview in four sets on Sept. 4 — while Pool 3 is topped by Fossil Ridge (2-1) and also includes Pine Creek (2-1), which swept Eaglecrest in the opener for both teams on Aug. 28.

Other 3A teams in the field include University (3-1) and Faith Christian (2-1).

Last year’s tournament had to be condensed to a single day and adjusted from 16 to 12 teams due to the massive rainfall and flooding that occurred a few days prior and kept teams from north of the metro area from attending.

Grandview won last season’s championship.

2014 EAGLECREST VOLLEYBALL INVITATIONAL

POOL 1: 1. Cheyenne Mountain, 2. Mountain Vista, 3. University; POOL 2: 1. EAGLECREST, 2. Brighton, 3. Legacy; POOL 3: 1. Fossil Ridge, 2. Pine Creek, 3. Faith Christian; POOL 4: 1. GRANDVIEW, 2. Eaton, 3. Denver East, 4. AURORA CENTRAL

THREE-TEAM POOL PLAY

Sept. 12 — 4 p.m.: No. 1 vs. No. 3; 30 minute break; 6 p.m.: No. 2 vs. No. 3; Sept. 13 — 8 a.m.: No. 1 vs. No. 2

FOUR-TEAM POOL PLAY

Sept. 12 — 4 p.m.: No. 1 vs. No. 3; 5 p.m.: No. 2 vs. No. 4; 6 p.m.: No. 1 vs. No. 4; 7 p.m.: No. 3 vs. No. 2; Sept. 13 — 8 a.m.: No. 4 vs. No. 3; 9 a.m.: No. 2 vs. No. 1

CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKET PLAY, SEPT. 13

10 a.m.: No. 1 vs. No. 4; 11 a.m.: No. 2 vs. No. 3; Noon: Loser vs. loser (third-place); 1 p.m.: Winner vs. winner (championship)

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Overland, Gateway wage marathon battle on softball diamond to tune of 27-26 Aurora Prep

Overland, Gateway wage marathon battle on softball diamond to tune of 27-26

Chance Siegele hasn’t seen a lot of seventh innings in his season-plus stint as Gateway softball coach.

Either on the winning or losing end of blowout decisions, the Olys rarely have been in games in which the mercy rule (a lead of 10 runs or more after five innings) hasn’t been invoked.

Gateway did that and more on Tuesday at Overland, where it waged a nine-inning battle that lasted 3 1/2 hours and nearly fell victim to the fading daylight. In the end, the Trailblazers walked off into the sunset with a 27-26 walk-off victory.

“Kelly (Overland coach Jones-Wagy) and I talked before the game and I mentioned that one of my goals before the season was to make it to the seventh inning and hopefully we can get there today,” Siegele said. “We made it. …I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. It was nuts.”

Siegele’s team remained winless in seven games this season, but had plenty of chances to win this particular game. The Olys surrendered a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, a three-run advantage in the bottom of the eighth and finally gave away a five-run edge in the ninth inning when Overland scored six times to get its first win of the year.

It took the Gateway scorekeeper two pages in a scorebook to keep the stats and even those ended up fairly illegible. From memory, Siegele believes his cleanup hitter, Sarah Alvarado, drove in at least 12 runs and his starting pitcher, Iva Griffiths, worked the entire nine innings and would have easily had double-digit strikeouts if not for a number of dropped third strikes.

Griffiths and Alvarado — the only two Olys with significant playing experience — were proud of the team’s effort.

“We have a really new team, but that didn’t stop the ladies from trying their hardest, stretching the game to two extra innings and playing their hearts out,” Griffiths said. “I was so proud of them and the way we refused to give up no matter how the game was going.”

Siegele also looked forward to the potential impact playing in a game like that could have on the team for the rest of the season.

“We’ve played some pretty good teams, so most of the time, I’m telling them ‘let’s learn and eliminate mistakes and I want you growing as a player,'” he said. “Last night, it was like ‘let’s go out and win this!’ You could see the excitement and anticipation, so I think they still have plenty to be proud of.”

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Monster numbers put up by Eaglecrest, St. Cloud in Florida football shootout Aurora Prep

Monster numbers put up by Eaglecrest, St. Cloud in Florida football shootout

The most eye-popping result of the first week of prep football for Aurora teams? Clearly Thursday’s Eaglecrest and St. Cloud (Florida) contest at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando fit the bill.

A game so chock-full of action that Eaglecrest athletic director Vince Orlando ran out of battery power on his phone as he tried to provide updates on the school’s Twitter account, coach Mike Schmitt’s Raptors and the Bulldogs piled up 88 points in the first half alone and ended with a total of 125 on the scoreboard, 69 for St. Cloud and 56 for Eaglecrest.

When the dust had cleared on the video game-like contest, the teams combined for more than 1,200 yards of total offense and both had quarterbacks who threw four touchdown passes — Elijah Ross for the Raptors and Hunter Weismore for the Bulldogs.

Ross, a star for Eaglecrest’s basketball team, racked up 380 yards of total offense — 203 yards passing on 13 completions and 177 yards rushing on 12 attempts — and accounted for five touchdowns. He threw touchdown passes of 44 and 23 yards to Peter Anderson, 21 yards to Anthony Karmazyn and 5 yards to Matt Lally and ran for 3-yarder. Meanwhile, Glenn Washington ripped off 156 yards rushing for the Raptors.

Eaglecrest’s defense, meanwhile, has now surrendered a total of 132 points in its past 96 minutes of football, including the 63 points Valor Christian put up in the first round of last season’s Class 5A state playoffs.

While Eaglecrest’s defense gave up a lot of points, it also scored some of its own on a Tommy Johnson interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Surprise new uniforms give Hinkley football team some extra bounce Aurora Prep

Surprise new uniforms give Hinkley football team some extra bounce

Robert O’Brien knew that new uniforms were coming and couldn’t wait for his Hinkley football players to see them.

Christmas Day for the team came a day before the Thunderbirds’ Zero Week game against rival Aurora Central, when the players showed up to a team dinner to discover some new threads that amped them up further to get on the field.

Clad in the new all-dark gray adidas uniforms that featured ‘Thunderbirds” across the chest and white wings on each of the shoulders, O’Brien’s team soared to a quality 27-6 victory over the Trojans in front of 2,288 people at Aurora Public Schools Stadium.

“I’ve known about them for a couple of months, but we had an unveil last night and the kids went nuts,” said O’Brien, who got a win in his head coaching debut. “It’s really cool to give something to the community and to kids that don’t necessarily have everything. …They were proud to be out there wearing those uniforms and that’s what we want. They are proud to be T-Birds.”

Senior Ahonsi Ohimai put the new gear to good use, as he rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns and nabbed a key interception. He definitely attributed some of the team’s swagger to the new uniforms.

“They surprised us with them yesterday and it was like ‘Welcome to the new Hinkley,'” Ohimai said. “Everybody went wild. We weren’t expecting these, but we love them.”

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Grandview grad Erica Denney transfers from NCAA champion Penn State to Denver volleyball team Aurora Prep

Grandview grad Erica Denney transfers from NCAA champion Penn State to Denver volleyball team

Erica Denney is back playing volleyball in Colorado.

The 6-foot-5 former Grandview High School star middle hitter spent the past four years at NCAA powerhouse Penn State, but now will complete her college eligibility as a member of the University of Denver Pioneers volleyball team.

Denney played on the Wolves’ undefeated 2007 Class 5A state championship team and appeared in three 5A finals in four high school seasons before she signed with Penn State. With the Nittany Lions, Denney redshirted as a freshman in 2010, played in one set as a redshirt freshman in 2011 and appeared in six matches — for a total of nine sets — in 2012. She also missed the 2013 season — when Penn State won its sixth NCAA championship — due to injury.

“We are thrilled to have Erica join our program,” Denver head coach Jesse Mahoney said in a statement. “She is a quality person and an intense competitor who has played volleyball at the highest levels. She has battled injuries throughout her career at Penn State, but she is healthy now and excited to get back on the court. We are looking forward to seeing what her experience will bring to the mix as we start the pre-season.”

Denney — who graduated with a degree in Animal Sciences and is taking graduate courses at Denver — practiced with the Pioneers on Aug. 9 and is on track to play in their first match on Aug. 29 against Jackson State.

Denver assistant coach Katelin Batten is another former Grandview player, but Denney joins a roster that is currently loaded with players from one of Grandview’s main rivals, Eaglecrest.

The addition of defensive specialist/libero Taylor Loyd, a 2014 graduate, brings the tally of former Eaglecrest players on the Pioneers’ roster to three, as she joins middle blocker Ruth Okoye and setter Bailey Karst. Karst — who was part of the Aurora Sentinel All-City Volleyball Team along with Denney in 2008-09 — also transferred to Denver after starting her career at the University of Ohio.

The Denver roster also includes another former player from an Aurora school in middle blocker Sarah Schmid, a Regis Jesuit High School graduate.

Denney’s sister, Cat, is currently on the roster at Doane College.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Junior Hayden Smith records hole-in-one during Regis Jesuit boys golf tryouts Aurora Prep

Junior Hayden Smith records hole-in-one during Regis Jesuit boys golf tryouts

The Regis Jesuit boys golf program has been a certified juggernaut in recent years.

Yet none of the many golfers who’ve moved along to the college level and contributed to an ongoing run of four straight Class 5A state championships had done what junior Hayden Smith did during tryouts Tuesday at Aurora’s Meadow Hills Golf Course.

Playing in the second-to-last of Regis Jesuit’s many groups, Smith used a 6-iron off the tee on the par 3 Hole No. 2, dropped his shot onto the raised green and watched the ball roll into the cup for a hole-in-one. Smith and his three playing partners rushed to the green to find the ball in the hole.

Longtime Regis Jesuit assistant coach Ted Schilling, who arrived on the scene just after the ace along with Steve Cavnar, said it was the first hole-in-one during Raiders’ tryouts in his eight seasons and veteran head coach Craig Rogers later confirmed it was the first one ever at tryouts in his long tenure.

Regis Jesuit had a hotly-contested tryout going to make the top five that will play in the first Continental League tournament on Thursday at South Suburban Golf Course.

Senior John Kane fired a 69 in the first round of tryouts and a slew of others shot in the 70s for the Raiders.

Last season, Smoky Hill’s Paul Cleveland recorded an ace at Saddle Rock Golf Course for the first hole-in-one in Centennial League regular season play in at least 12 years.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Aurora Prep

Boys lacrosse championship games moved from Saturday afternoon to Friday night in upcoming spring

The logjam of championship events at the end of the spring prep sports season should be a little less crowded this upcoming spring.

Per a post on CHSAANow.com, the Colorado High School Activities Association is shifting the Class 4A and 5A state championship games to a Friday night time slot instead of its usual Saturday afternoon schedule to avoid a problem with a college lacrosse tournament at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on May 15, 2015.

Last season, as in years past,  the championship game between Regis Jesuit and Cherry Creek — a dominating 14-7 Raiders’ victory — was played at the same time as the state track meet was contested at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood and the finals of the 5A boys state swim meet wrapped up at the Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. Regis Jesuit athletic fans were spread all over and the 5A Baseball Championship Series also took place the same day.

This spring’s new schedule features the 4A and 5A boys lacrosse championship games on a Friday evening, when it would only be up against the prelims of the boys state swim meet and potentially a late-starting baseball game. The venue remains the same, though the Denver Outlaws won’t play the nightcap game as they have in the past.

Regis Jesuit is loaded with returning players, including a significant number who made the 2014 Aurora Sentinel All-City Boys Lacrosse Team, on its quest to win a second straight 5A state championship.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Aurora Prep

Smoky Hill grad Chase Vaughn begins training camp with Denver Broncos

Chase Vaughn is a long way from Smoky Hill High School.

The former Aurora prep standout with the Buffaloes in the mid-2000s has worked his way all the way up to a shot with the hometown Denver Broncos, who began training camp for the 2014 National Football League season on Thursday.

Vaughn, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound linebacker who starred at Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, signed with Denver in May and is on the 90-man roster that begins training camp.

Previously, Vaughn played in several professional football leagues, including the Arena Football League (with the Spokane Shock), United Football League (with the Las Vegas Locos), Canadian Football League (Calgary Stampeders) and Indoor Football League (Colorado Ice).

Due to construction at the Broncos’ Dove Valley headquarters, fans won’t be able to attend training camp practices as they have in the past, however the team will conduct a workout from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and parking and admission are free.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Aurora Prep

Big season lands Regis Jesuit 12th in country in CBS MaxPreps Cup rankings

The final numbers prove Regis Jesuit High School’s fantastic 2013-14 athletic season ranked right up among the best in country.

According to the CBS MaxPreps Cup national rankings released on July 22 (and listed below), the Aurora high school — which has a separate Boys Division and Girls Division — had the 12th-most successful athletic program in the country according to a formula that awards points based on championship or runner-up finishes in state and association level. The size of playoff classification, size of state and type of sport (major vs. minor) also was factored into the formula.

Regis Jesuit captured a total of six Class 5A team championships in 2013-14 including 5A titles in boys and girls swimming, boys and girls golf, girls basketball and boys lacrosse. The school’s baseball team finished as the runner-up to Rocky Mountain. The results netted the school 739 points, putting Regis Jesuit just ahead of Westminster (Atlanta) with a 13th-place total of 732 and just behind Rock Bridge (Columbia, Missouri), which came in 11th with 743.

No other Colorado high school appeared in this season’s MaxPreps top 25. Cherry Creek won top honors for Colorado in 2012-13 and finished 23rd in the national rankings.

Bentonville, Ark., was the clear No. 1 program in 2013-14 with a total of eight state championships.

2014 CBS MAXPREPS CUP NATIONAL RANKINGS

1. Bentonville (Ark.), 1,120 2. St. Pius X Catholic (Atlanta), 985 3. Punahou (Honolulu), 980 4. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), 967 5. Marist (Atlanta), 918 6. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), 834 7. Carmel (Ind.), 832 8. Deer Creek (Edmond, Okla.), 804 9. The Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.), 799 10. Wayzata (Plymouth, Minn.), 766 11. Rock Bridge (Columbia, Mo.), 743 12. REGIS JESUIT (AURORA), 739 13. Westminster (Atlanta), 732 14. Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.), 730 15. Webb (Knoxville, Tenn.), 715 16. Tottenville (Staten Island, N.Y.), 710 17. Summit (Bend, Ore.), 702 18. Bozeman (Mont.), 686 19. Madison Central (Miss.), 676 20. Bedford (N.H.), 674 21. Darien (Conn.), 664 22. Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.), 662 23. Mountain Brook (Birmingham, Ala.), 650 24. Montgomery Academy (Ala.), 648 25. La Salle Academy (Providence, R.I.), 642

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes

Aurora Prep

Regis Jesuit grad Bud Thomas, Mercer win ESPY for Best Upset

Months later, Bud Thomas and the seniors on the Mercer men’s basketball team got to celebrate their greatest triumph again.

The Regis Jesuit High School grad and his teammates pulled off the shocker of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on March 21, as the 14th-seeded Bears knocked off third-seeded Duke 78-71 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Thomas scored just two points against coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils — one of the teams Thomas always followed in the NCAA tournament growing up — but dished out five assists and played strong defensively for Mercer, the Atlantic Sun Conference champion which lost in the next round to Tennessee.

The Mercer seniors were in the crowd in Los Angeles when the award was presented Wednesday night. The Mercer upset topped Connecticut’s victory over Florida in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game and Chris Weidman’s upset knockout of 10-time UFC champion Anderson Silva.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning also won two ESPY awards, for Best Record-Breaking Performance as well as Best NFL Player.

2014 ESPY WINNERS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Winners at the 2014 ESPY Awards presented Wednesday:

Best Breakthrough Athlete: Richard Sherman; Best Moment: U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team; Best Game: Iron Bowl; Best Record-Breaking Performance: Peyton Manning; Best Play: Chris Davis; Best Female Athlete: Ronda Rousey; Best Male Athlete: Kevin Durant; Best Team: Seattle Seahawks; Best Upset: MERCER; Best Female Action Sports Athlete: Jamie Anderson; Best Male Action Sports Athlete: Nyjah Houston; Best Female Athlete with a Disability: Jamie Whitmore; Best Male Athlete with a Disability: Declan Farmer; Best Female College Athlete: Breanna Stewart; Best Male College Athlete: Doug McDermott; Best Coach/Manager: Gregg Popovich; Best MLS Player: Tim Cahill; Best NBA Player: Kevin Durant; Best NFL Player: Peyton Manning; Best NHL Player: Sidney Crosby; Best MLB Player: Miguel Cabrera; Best WNBA Player: Maya Moore; Best Female US Olympian: Jamie Anderson; Best Male US Olympian: Sage Kotsenburg; Championship Performance: Kawhi Leonard; Best Bowler: Pete Weber; Best Female Tennis Player: Maria Sharapova; Best Male Tennis Player: Rafael Nadal; Best Comeback Athlete: Russell Westbrook; Best Female Golfer: Michelle Wie; Best Male Golfer: Bubba Watson; Best International Athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo; Best Fighter: Floyd Mayweather; Best Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay; Best Jockey: Victor Espinoza

SPECIAL AWARDS

Jimmy V Perseverance Award: Stuart Scott; Arthur Ashe Courage Award: Michael Sam; Pat Tillman Award For Service: Josh Sweeney

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes