After losing 15 varsity seniors, the Hotchkiss Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them this fall if they want to make the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season. Hotchkiss is ranked fourth in state 1A competition, which is impressive, but they will have to contend with two other top-ranked teams in the state, both Western Slope League teams, to get there.
The No. 1-ranked team in the state is the defending state champions Cedaredge, now 0-1 after losing a zero-week game Friday to Eagle Valley.
Then there's Paonia, which has a new head coach and opened the season with a big win over Basalt.
But this is Hotchkiss football. "We don't have a lot of varsity experience," said head coach Zac Lemon, whose team has a strong tradition of winning. "But we always have good returning players."
To help the young team prepare for the upcoming season, Lemon and his coaching staff elected to hold team camp at home and focus on developing skills, rather than attend Adams State Team Camp in June. Camp was held at the end of July, and ended just two weeks before practice began.
Junior Devin Rupe will start at quarterback, said Lemon prior to last Friday's scrimmages at Aspen. Rupe, starting pitcher for the Bulldogs baseball team, threw two varsity passes last season, and quarterbacked the JV squad to a winning season. Rupe will be the team's first two-year quarterback since 2010.
Returning seniors include Colton Pierce, Hank Edwards and River Panish. Pierce and Edwards were named all-conference players in 2012. Pierce started at center in 2012, and on defense averaged 3.9 tackles per game. Wide receiver Chris Allen, a 6-foot-5 junior receiver, paid his dues on JV in 2012, and on varsity caught 11 passes for 105 yards in 10 games. Panish rushed for 154 yards and three TDs on 25 carries in 2012, and brings kickoff and punt return experience to special teams.
Also bringing varsity experience to the field are Duncan Turnbull, Alex Smith, Tanner Bizer, Ross LeValley, Nick Blaser, Jake Hubbell, Jacob Schreiner, Jaden Simpson and Caleb Schelle.
Hotchkiss' coaching staff includes Jason Yantzer, Blake Carlquist, Curtis Hintz and Isaac Snell, who replaces six-year veteran Doug Horton as O-line/D-line coach. Snell also replaces Horton as HHS athletic director.
Since 2004, Hotchkiss has posted a 66-25-1 record — one of the best records in the state. Lemon credits his players for that success. "We've just been blessed with good talent and hard workers year after year," said Lemon. "Great players make coaches look good."
Hotchkiss opens the season this Friday against Olathe. Under coach Ryan Corn, the Pirates struggled last season to a 2-7 overall record. Their 12 seniors will likely be looking to avenge last year's 20-14 loss to Hotchkiss. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Hotchkiss High School.blog comments powered by Disqus