From brand new playmakers to revamped, pass-happy offenses and performances that were better or worse than expected, the first week of football games for area teams was full of surprises.
None of those surprises was bigger than a couple of seniors who came out for football for the first time and instantly established themselves.
At Rampart, Brad Looney’s first game included starting assignments at wide receiver and cornerback and four catches for 143 yards and a 79-yard touchdown in a loss to Cañon City.
Looney hadn’t played football since his freshman year, but coach JJ Owens lured him to the team after watching him play baseball last year.
“That’s where I found him,” Owens said. “In baseball I was so impressed with his leadership skills and the way he talked to his teammates. I said, ‘Brad, you’re the kind of kid I want in a football player.’ Turns out he’s a phenomenal athlete.”
At Air Academy, Geno Bigelow made his football debut with three carries for 98 yards and a touchdown and five caches for 98 yards and another score.
Bigelow was a one-time soccer standout, who keeps adding sports to his repertoire. He went out for basketball for the first time last season and averaged 10.2 points.
Now he gives quarterback Kevin Kimbrow the kind of big-play threat that could help the Kadets to their first winning season since 2008. They’re off to a good start, having defeated Pueblo Centennial 45-20.
Next comes a matchup at Discovery Canyon and then a home game against Mesa Ridge.
In the Grizzlies, Air Academy will see a team that displayed a different look in its opener — even if it wasn’t exactly as coach Rob Braaten drew it up.
Mesa Ridge threw 22 times in an opening loss at Denver South, with new quarterback Cody Groff completing 11 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns.
As a team, the Grizzlies ran for just 109 yards. This for a program that averaged 229.7 rushing yards a year ago. Braaten said after the game that the play-calling was a reflection of what Denver South was giving his team, but after Groff showed he can handle the workload it will be interesting to see how the team might alter its identity moving forward.
Speaking of identity, Fountain-Fort Carson coach Mitch Johnson always talks about the need for his team to find more balance in what is generally a run-oriented offense. He backed it up in an opening victory over Pine Creek, as the Trojans passed 12 times and ran 14 times in a first half that saw Fountain-Fort Carson score three of its four touchdowns in a 24-13 victory.
The Trojans are led by strong-armed junior quarterback Cameron Hacker, who threw for 71 yards.
“It will be nice to look up and not see 11 guys defending us in the box,” Johnson said.
The other half of that giant opening matchup spent this week trying to improve upon what was a rare disappointing start.
Pine Creek coach Todd Miller said that after watching film, it was clear that his team was simply outplayed by the Trojans. Even without five turnovers, he didn’t see his team winning that game.
“They beat us. They outcoached us. They had their kids ready to play and I didn’t,” Miller said. “Even if we play a clean game I don’t think we win after watching the film. They beat us in every phase of the game.”
Miller said he’ll plan on rotating quarterbacks yet again. Kyle Windebank completed 5-of-6 passes for 152 yards and Kamden Adkins went 2-for-5 for 34 yards as they switched every series. Miller said the performances this week might lead to an in-game decision, but as of now the plan is to stick with both.
Miller also said a number of running backs would continue to share the load, though he’d like to see more out of James Fisher (who ran three times for 6 yards and caught three passes for 99 yards).
“Sometimes it’s hard when you have to look in the mirror, but we have a chance to do something about it,” Miller said. “Not too many times in life can you do that. You know, if you have a crappy boss or something else isn’t going right, sometimes you’re stuck with it. We can go out and make ourselves better.”
It will be interesting to see how much Pine Creek improves by the time it plays Vista Ridge in Week 4 and Falcon in Week 6, because both of those teams enjoyed tremendous openers.
Vista Ridge blasted Montrose 45-6 in a Week Zero game and Falcon handled Widefield 42-7 last week.
Both Montrose and Widefield were in the 4A playoffs last year, and the Wolves and Falcons handled them with ease.
It’s said the biggest improvement a football team will make comes between the first and second weeks. If that’s true, there could be some big things on the immediate horizon for area programs.