2016 WEEK 1 A-TOWN FOOTBALL GAME OF THE WEEK
EAGLECREST (0-0) VS. SMOKY HILL (0-0)
Sept. 1, 7 p.m., Stutler Bowl
BREAKDOWN: The inaugural A-Town Game of the Week — presented by the Aurora Sentinel and StreamItSports — matches two former Centennial League rivals in Eaglecrest and Smoky Hill, who square off at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at Stutler Bowl on the campus of Cherry Creek High School. The teams last met in Week 6 of the 2013 season in a game in which Eaglecrest posted a 53-28 victory on Oct. 4, 2013, at Stutler Bowl. The Raptors have won two of the past three meetings, while the Buffaloes posted a 10-6 victory in the matchup between the teams in 2011.
EAGLECREST: The visiting Raptors finished 4-6 last season and missed out on the Class 5A state playoffs after the wild card points were changed when Highlands Ranch forfeited its season. Veteran coach Mike Schmitt’s Eaglecrest team blasted Lakewood 41-15 in a non-playoff Week 10 contest and hope to pick up where they left off in their season opener. A dynamic offense has become the Raptors’ calling card in recent years and they expect to put up points again in 2016. Eaglecrest won the Denver Broncos‘ 7-on-7 tournament over the summer for the second year in a row, with junior QB Jalen Mergerson showing physical growth, improved leadership and understanding of the offense. He threw for 1,652 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 90 yards and another score a year ago. Elusive junior RB Victor Garnes had a breakout season last year with 1,113 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns, while RB Kenny Wantings, WR Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez (296 yards receiving, 2 TDs), WR Corey Corbin and TE Tyler Peabody — all juniors — should stretch defenses in many directions. Line play on both sides of the football appears to be improved with senior Elijah Brockman, an Air Force commitment, in the thick of things. Brockman, Quentin Bowen, Bear Miller, Jackie Wynn and Kyante Christian headline a strong group that has more size than in the past and has flourished at a variety of big man competitions. Defensively, Eaglecrest has strength in the linebacking core with Bowen, Elijah Anderson and others, while the defensive backfield gets toughness from a lot of places, including fiery senior S Bross Lee. Eaglecrest’s full 2016 schedule, here.
SMOKY HILL: Coach John Trahan enters his second season at the helm of the Buffaloes with a significantly different outlook given the season he has under his belt with the program. Smoky Hill also missed out on the Class 5A state playoffs last season with a 2-8 record that included wins over Arvada West and Grand Junction. The Buffaloes averaged 18.6 points per game last season, but expect that number to rise significantly with a fourth-year varsity player under center in senior QB Karson Avila, who has taken the vast majority of the snaps for the team in the past 1 1/2 seasons. Avila threw for 1,715 yards last season — up from 508 as a sophomore — along with 10 touchdown passes, while he was also the team’s leading rusher last season with 334 yards and eight scores. Senior RB Joseph Lawrence could be in line for a big season running the football and junior RB James Bowers (who spent last season as a wide receiver) will also get plenty of touches, while senior WR Maurice Wyatt is back after a season that saw him catch 30 passes for 393 yards and 3 touchdowns. Smoky Hill’s biggest reason for optimism in the line, where the offensive front features players who average 250 pounds — seniors Ryan Campbell, Stephon Bennett, Malcolm Bennett and Ricky Sisk, plus junior Tyler Greco — who have a cohesive bond on and off the field. The Buffs’ big men hung tough at the Hog Wars competition for linemen over the summer at Rangeview. Smoky Hill saw leading tackler Robert Woods transfer to Grandview, but return a decent amount of experience on defense. Lawrence is a key figure in the defensive backfield and Bowers keys the linebacking core, which should benefit from the Buffs’ increased size along the defensive line as well. Smoky Hill’s full 2016 schedule, here.
WEEK 2: Eaglecrest takes on ThunderRidge at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Shea Stadium in Highlands Ranch, while Smoky Hill has a 7 p.m. matchup against Rock Canyon on Sept. 8 at Sports Authority Stadium in Parker.