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1A Western Slope outlook

Paonia

Last year’s record: 8-2

Returning starters: four (two on offense, two on defense)



Players to watch: QB/DB C.J. Cannell (first team All-league, honorable mention All-state), Tanner Ridgway RB/LB (first team All-conference, honorable mention All-state)

Analysis: After losing in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Paonia finds itself rebuilding. The big question Paonia faces is its offensive line. After finishing first in the conference last year, Paonia was hit hard by graduation. They have to replace players on both sides of the line if they hope to duplicate last year’s success.



West Grand

Last year’s record: 7-4

Returning starters: 16 (eight on offense, eight on defense)

Players to watch: FB/LB Berry Klotz (first team All-league, first team All-state)

Analysis: West Grand should be the team to beat in the Western Slope this year. The school returns five All-conference players, including its entire backfield. Last year, West Grand lost in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs and lost three starting offensive lineman to graduation. The team should be a playoff team and league champion if its players stay healthy.

Grand Valley

Last year’s record: 3-6

Returning starters: 15 (seven on offense, eight on defense)

Players to watch: RB Danny Manzanares, QB Richard Galle-gos, RB/WR Derrick Maxfield, OL Tyler Harris, WR/S Tyler Jensen

Analysis: Last year, Grand Valley beat teams it probably shouldn’t have and lost to teams it should have beaten. The return of Manzanares should help the already high-powered offense. He broke his fibia in his first game last season. Grand Valley’s offense figures to be among the top in the league. With tough non-league games against Aspen and Basalt, look for Grand Valley’s record to be worse than the team really is. Grand Valley should battle it out with West Grand for the top spot in the league.

Meeker

Last year’s record: 6-3

Returning starters: 12 (six on offense, six on defense)

Players to watch: RB/LB Curtis Dunbar (honorable mention All-league), OL/DL Chaz Mills (honorable mention All-league), OL/DL Marcus Kendall (honorable mention All-league)

Analysis: Meeker returns six seniors from last year’s team, which barely missed the playoffs. It has a good core of returning players but has to fill numerous positions with players who haven’t seen varsity action. Depending on how quick the new players get up to speed, Meeker could challenge for a playoff spot again in the Western Slope.

Rangely

Last year’s record: 2-7

Returning starters: 12 (six on offense, six on defense)

Players to watch: QB Kalen Brady, RB Tim Willis, FB/TE Jon Fisher

Analysis: Rangely was bitten by the injury bug last year. It lost its top six players to injury, including Willis, who broke his ankle after the second game. Rangely returns players in most of the key skill positions. The team should have a very balanced offense, although it did lose most of its offensive line to graduation. Rangely struggled on defense last year but should improve under a new defensive coordinator.

Soroco

Last year’s record: 5-4

Returning starters: Five (three on offense, two on defense)

Players to watch: DL Dennis Morgan (honorable mention All-league), RB Brian Spaeth (honorable mention All-league), Joel Schlegel (honorable mention All-league)

Analysis: See preview story on page 1C.

Hayden

Last year’s record: 7-3

Returning starters: Five (two on offense, three on defense)

Players to watch: FB/LB Brandon Ford (first team All-league, honorable mention All-state), LB/TE Dave Gullett (honorable mention All-league)

Analysis: See preview story on page 1C.


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