You know the MO, you are the champ until someone beats you. In this case Columbine may have the recipe for a repeat, not only for a conference title but for another state title. Key to this title run will be the work of Bernard McDondle. Last season McDondle and his older brother Cameron created an unstoppable running game that went for an undefeated season. Bernard posted a whopping 12 yards a carry and was dominant in playoffs posting 452 yards in the state semifinal and state championship game. McDondle will carry more of the load but he will do it behind another big Mullen line made up of John Lisella, Nate Anderson and Issac Jimenez jr. Under center Michael Burns is a solid ball carrier and should run the Rebel O well.
Coach Lowry is not afraid to play ironman football so Lisella, McDondle, Burns and others will rep on both sides of the ball. Defensive lineman Brian Mayberry is a returning All-Conference pick. Because of Mullen's ground and pound on O, time for offensive touches are rare for Rebel opponents.
DEFENSE!!! DEFENSE!!! You know the chant and this year, as in the past, Mullen has plenty of D. I especially like that the core front of the defense returns nearly intact. Collin Albershardt will make plays from defensive tackle, defensive end and outside backer. Also up front is a deep rotation with converted offensive lineman Tim Coleman and newcomer Terrell Washington. The backers return intact with All-Stater Patrick Healy leading the way. Run stoppers Castille Bayers and Nick Brotzman will make run yards tough to come by. Last season the Mustangs allowed 13 points a game and could again make those numbers this season.
If history proves true, new coach Tom Thenell should get points on the board. New QB Gasper Dominici as well as versatile playmakers Milo Hall and Conor Brady will prosper in Thenell's offense.
Let me be the first to say I missed on Lakewood last season. There is no way I thought the Tigers would make the 5A final and in fact I underestimated them all last season. With that mea culpa now out of the way let me say I like Arapahoe. The Warriors have a strong cast of young playmakers and if they can tighten up their QB situation yards should come. Add in a defense with multiple All-Conference honorees and the Warriors could move beyond last year's 5-5 record.
Around the Conference:
Chatfield has multiple returnees from a 2011 campaign that was disappointing. Linebackers Davis Deponte and Patrick Elsenbast, return to lead the defense while athletic QB Mason Brozovich, a part time starter last season, will head the offense.
Bear Creek will see a year of transition with longtime coach Tom Thennell moving on to Mullen. Mullen and Wyoming alum Zach Morris has the reigns at Bear Creek and should, based on his playing background, bring a defensive mentality to the Bears. Bright spots for Morris are experience on the offensive line with ALL-Stater Jake Bennett and returnees Corky Phillips, Kyle Gingles and Tyler Conley as well as talented young skill players in Nick Madrid, Danny Flanagan and PJ Russell.
Lakewood, last year's 5A runner up, lost a ton of speed and talent and will need to find playmakers. DB Riley Collins, LB James Riddle and big DT Luke Niko return on defense. Wyoming bound OT Taylor Knestis is a player to watch on offense.