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High hopes for boys' hoops at Hotchkiss

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The Bulldogs boys' basketball team has a mix of veterans and young talent that it hopes will achieve new heights of glory at Hotchkiss High School.

Now the test will be putting all of the pieces together into a winning mix for the Bulldogs.

Coach Eric Hollembeak, who moved to the boys' bench this season after spending a couple of years leading the Hotchkiss girls' team, leads a team that is loaded with talent but might suffer from a lack of experience.

"That is kind of a challenge," Hollembeak said after the first game of the season. "We're learning on the fly. If you look at it, we have three players coming back with varsity experience, so we're going to have to learn fast."

Senior Clayton Oxford returns to lead the Bulldogs and has good height and speed. Will Drbohlav is the only other senior on the Bulldogs' roster.

Hollembeak expects good things from the Bulldogs' two juniors. Zack Allen might be the tallest player on the team, and Gabe Rodriguez is a versatile player who can score and defend.

Bulldogs are sophomores who will each see considerable playing time this season. Sam Rodriguez, Eli Sawatzky, Jonathan Gonzalez, Braxton Trujillo, Eli Kirk and Darrin Young will all play key roles for Hotchkiss this season.

"We've got a lot of young kids who have been playing hard," Hollembeak said. "We have lots of potential. We have big upside."

The Bulldogs will have to earn their stripes in a highly competitive league. The preseason poll released by CHSAA online ranks Meeker No. 7 and Paonia No. 10 in 2A. Hotchkiss will get at least four games against those teams as well as two against Cedaredge.

The tough schedule and the Bulldogs' young team does not deter the enthusiastic first-year coach nor do they change the usual high standards at Hotchkiss.

"We definitely hope to be in the top three of our league," Hollembeak said. "We want to be able to make the regional tournament, and if we're peaking at the right time, knock somebody off at regionals and make it to the state tournament. That would be a great season for us if we could do that."

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