This season, the new Pioneer Conference will see Rock Canyon, Legend and Castle View move up to 5A and compete against opponents from Colorado Springs. Independent Valor, after running an early season gauntlet against Mullen and Utah power Bingham High School, will play against Pioneer opponents.
Currently the Valor Christian Eagles are on a 24 game winning streak and attempting to post their third straight state title, this time in 5A. Since their start, Valor has always reloaded and this year will be the same. Highlighting this season are big name players from big name football families. Christian McCaffrey returns as the state's top back and Luke Del Rio, committed to Oklahoma State, debuts at the helm of the O. As talented as McCaffrey and Del Rio are, the story of Valor could be the lesser known players. On offense Nick Ulmer is a receiver to watch, while running backs Daryl Hawkins and Cameron Gray would be All-State 1,000 plus yard rusher on other squads. Up front Valor lost All-Stater Alex Kozan, but they return seniors Sione Maumau and Leuluai Io. Underclassmen Sam Kozan and Alex Ruth make their bones this year in the trenches.
Defensively OLB Carlos Aviles will lead with support from Gray. Up front three year starter Stanley Gilbert returns to anchor a deep defensive front. Strong safety Levi Wadell returns from injury and is hungry to play. Junior defensive back Marcus Wilson is a player to watch as is another player from football royalty defensive back Brian Dawkins.
The Fountain-Fort CarsonTrojans, under Mitch Johnson, are one of the state's most consistent teams. This year, like many years, FFC has great backs in Trae Banks and Anthony Davis. Last season Banks posted over 1,200 yards.
Heritage long time Head Coach Mike Griebel will be the first to admit last season was a disappointment, but expect improvement in 2012. After a tough junior campaign, senior gunslinging QB Ryan Novak has worked hard for his final season. Lineman Jon Wilson protects up front while senior RB Bryan Carlson will be the offensive workhorse.
Doherty has fallen on hard times of late but talent is there. New Head Coach David Joyce has young and talented RB Zach Young to carry the ball.
Much like Doherty, Palmer High breaks in another new coach with Justin Rich now at the reigns. There is talent at Palmer, but will it gel this year.
Last season Castle View used a huge offensive line to power its way to an 11-2 record in 4A. This year key parts of the line and offense may need time, but an experienced defense will help. Tim Hunsaker will pull double duty in the trenches while Brendan McGowan does it all at H-back, defensive end and punter.
Rock Canyon, new to 5A, comes off a 4A playoff berth and will once again rely on the ironman work of Eric Williams. Williams, who never leaves the field, rushed for over 2,000 yards last season, while also making an impact on D. The Jags need others to step up if they want to compete at Colorado's highest level.
Legend High School has talent in linebacker Colton Fries and athlete Connor Orgill. Depth could come into play as they make the move up.