Potentially 2012's most competitive 5A conference top to bottom is the Continental. Boasting multiple strong programs as well as many of the state's top players, picking clear cut favorites is tough.
In a brave statement I will take Chaparral as the favorite. On paper the Wolverines return the right players in the right positions. I especially like teams that bring back experienced QBs and few are better than Max Kuhns. Over the past two seasons Kuhns has become a silent assassin. Smart, with an arm to make the throws, Kuhns, last season, completed over 57% of his passes with 17 TDs versus only one interception. It does not hurt that Kuhns throws to the toughest matchup in Colorado in tight end Mitch Parsons. Whether up the seam, across the middle or in the redzone, the 6-4 Parsons is going to make the catch. Kuhns and Parsons are not the only playmakers. RB Zach Guy averaged right at eight yards a carry. Junior backer RJ Martin is an up and comer who will make plays with Issac Hernandez and Steven DaSilva keeping him clean. See if the defensive backfield can overcome the graduation of playmakers Andrew McReynolds, Gavin McHenry and Spencer Vogt.
I like the ideas of the Griz having a rugged line to go with an experienced quarterback. Sam Jones, 6-4 270, will get push while QB Brody Westmoreland can run and throw just enough to keep the D honest. Fullback Jake Hand is the type of bruiser Coach Johnson likes to feed, while back Steve Ray is shifty enough to make teams pay.
The potential ground and pound of the offense, which boasts three running options and a big line, will benefit the defense highlighted by John Adam, last year's sack leader on the squad.
Sleeper: Mountain Vista
Watching MV QB Ryan Rubley rock and fire for a full season should be fun. The Tulsa bound signal caller knows his dad's offense inside and out and has a cadre of experienced receivers to throw to. Add in the graduation of many of the Continental's top DBs and the Golden Eagles are set to fly high. Big receivers Chris Hill and Rocco Polumbo will benefit this season while junior back Tanner Smith should get some room as teams play the pass. Last season, in losses to Chap and ThunderRidge, Mountain Vista gave up, on average, 36 points a game.
Best of the Rest:
A few years ago when Douglas County sat atop 5A, defense was key. Last season the Huskies allowed nearly 32 points a game. A young group of defenders must improve on that if DC wants to thrive in this octane conference.
After a huge 2010 season Regis fell back to 5-5. DE Antonio Broadus and multiple other returning defenders are key to Regis getting back in the upper half of 5A. Offensively 6-7 tight end Robert Orban is a player poised for a big senior campaign.
Highlands Ranch is in the midst of a rebuilding campaign. PrepColorado Player of the Year Joe Hansley as well as talented QB Steve Donatell and RB Richard Mbugua have moved on to the next level. Defenders Michael Robinson, Blake Robbins and Alex Motazedi need to hold the fort as offensive playmakers come forward.