CORONADO (1-0) AT TCA (0-1)
When, Where: 7 p.m., TCA North Campus
Last year: TCA beat Coronado, 42-7 at Garry Berry Stadium.
Breakdown: Both teams come off surprising 2012 seasons. The Cougars went 5-5 after going winless in 2011. Meanwhile, the Titans went 9-2 last season after a 2-8 disaster the year before. Both teams seem poised to further improve under second-year coaches Bobby Lizarraga (Coronado) and David Bervig (TCA). The Cougars shut down Pueblo Central, 43-0 last week, forcing two turnovers while committing none. That's quite a shift after last year's opener vs. TCA when they suffered five turnovers and fell behind 42-0 by halftime. TCA returns senior quarterback Jantzen Ryals, who suffered a broken collarbone in Week 9 and missed the rest of the season. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 129 yards and two scores in the last meeting between the schools. Coronado also is led by a senior QB in Joah Smith, who accounted for four TDs in last week's victory.
FOUNTAIN-FORT CARSON (0-0) AT PINE CREEK (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., District 20 Stadium (Liberty)
Last year: Fountain-Fort Carson prevailed, 24-13, breaking a four-game series skid.
Breakdown: Wow, what opposite directions both teams went after this Week Zero matchup last year. The Trojans lost only to Valor Christian until falling in the second round of the 5A playoffs to cap a 9-2 year. Meanwhile, the 4A Eagles, playing three 5A teams to start the season, lost the next two games by three points, suffered key injuries and found themselves 0-5 at the halfway point. Pine Creek won four of its last five, but finished 4-6, its first losing season under eighth-year coach Todd Miller. Fountain-Fort Carson graduated a prolific senior class and enters the season with plenty of questions. Returning quarterback Jeremiah Joiner threw one pass last year. Its defense, anchored by returning LBs Jacob Harmon, Kevin McLaughlin and Drue Harris who combined for more than 300 tackles in 2012, will be its strength early. Pine Creek has plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball, including Scott Savage, Austin Meacham, Kamden Adkins and Avery Anderson in support of QB Tommy Lazzaro. Expect a low-scoring game. Last year's output marked the most combined points in the previous eight meetings that includes wins of 14-6, 13-3 and 17-0 for Pine Creek and 14-7 and 21-3 for Fountain-Fort Carson.
DENVER SOUTH (0-0) at MESA RIDGE (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., C.A. Foster Stadium, Widefield
Last year: Denver South won 42-34 in Week 1 and 38-22 in a 4A state semifinal playoff game.
Breakdown: It's the third meeting in less than one year from these schools, who played for a berth in the 4A state title game last November in Widefield. Denver South, which came down from 5A prior to the 2012 season later fell to Monarch, 17-14 in the championship. The Rebels are led by junior RB Trevonte Tasco, a 5-foot-8, 245-pound wrecking ball who gashed the Grizzlies for 188 yards and a TD in the last meeting, and senior RB Zachary Lindsay. His big brother, Colorado-bound Phillip, ran roughshod on Mesa Ridge in last year's opener but later suffered a torn knee ligament and missed the rest of the season. Mesa Ridge hopes to build on last season's success, but will have to do so with a revamped offensive line that lost all five starters to graduation. Senior RB-P Tremell Stanley rushed for 1,112 yards last season with 13 TDs. Fellow senior RB Elijah Gilbert added 401 yards rushing and five TDs.
DOHERTY (0-0) at LIBERTY (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., District 20 Stadium (Liberty)
Last year: Liberty scored a 48-22 victory in the opener for both teams.
Breakdown: A year ago, new Doherty coach David Joyce witnessed a turnover- and mistake-filled game in his debut, the first of eight straight losses before a two-game winning streak to end the season. Now, the energized Spartans, armed with 20 returning seniors and a full year of Joyce's system, are ready to make noise, led by seniors RB Zach Young, DB Matt Bogans, QB Evan Powell and WR Brandon Supernaw. Liberty, on the other hand, is much like Doherty last year as the Lancers are adjusting to a new coach in two-time Super Bowl champion Clarence Vaughn. Liberty is short on experience and will lean on RB-LB Austin Buhl to move the chains and make plenty of tackles on defense. LB Patrick Clift and DL Travis Christofferson are two key defensive returners for Liberty.
LEWIS-PALMER (0-1) at SAND CREEK (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., Sand Creek High School
Last year: Lewis-Palmer knocked off Sand Creek, 42-29
Breakdown: The Rangers fell 35-13 to 3A state power Pueblo East in a Week Zero matchup Aug. 24, but were encouraged by the play of senior RB Chad Marshall, who rushed 15 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't as auspicious of a beginning for senior QB Jason Chiarenze, who struggled to a 5-of-16 passing night for 70 yards and two interceptions. The Scorpions return 10 offensive and nine defensive starters from last year's team that went 4-6 to continue a nice turnaround under second-year coach Rod Baker. QB Micheal DeCarmo eclipsed 1,000 yards in rushing and passing, and ran for 199 yards and threw for 177 more in last year's contest against Lewis-Palmer. The problem was the Scorpions' defense gave up 521 total yards, the first of six games in which it allowed 40 points or more. The unit will improve this year with veteran leadership from returning LBs Jeremy Jaquess (66 tackles) and Cody Martin (57).
ST. MARY'S (0-0) at CSCS (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., UCCS
Last year: St. Mary's knocked off the Lions, 7-6.
Breakdown: They don't meet twice a season as they did in a few of their 2A Tri-Peaks League years, but this longtime rivalry still packs a punch. The nonleague opponents start the season against each other for the fourth time in a row. St. Mary's broke a long losing streak to CSCS with a victory at the end of the 2011 season and has a two-game winning streak heading into Friday after a 7-6 victory in last year's opener. CSCS, which dropped to 1A prior to last season, bid farewell to seniors Dan and Jim Kenney and nearly 95 percent of the Lions' offense in 2012. The team is in the hands of senior QB TJ Stockton and little brother WR Shad Stockton, a junior. Each scored three TDs last year. St. Mary's junior RB Ben Breier was among the Tri-Peaks leaders with 917 yards and 10 TDs last season. He'll take the pressure off an inexperienced passing game looking to find its next leader after Logan Elliott took every snap last season.
WIDEFIELD (0-0) at FALCON (0-0)
When, Where: 7 p.m., Falcon High School
Last year: Falcon cruised to a 42-7 road victory
Breakdown: Ironically, the two schools that filled their football coaching vacancies last meet in their season opener. Widefield hired Brent Cottrell, a former head coach at Centaurus, Cheyenne Mountain and Woodland Park, in early June. The next week, Falcon introduced Terry Pourier and Brian Green as co-head coaches. Certainly, cohesiveness, chemistry and learning new systems are all concerns. Widefield, 3-7 a season ago, returns just two starters in RB-DB Kyree Goodman and two-way lineman Chris Yalongo. Falcon, led by its former middle school coaches, returns several key players from last season's playoff team, including do-everything athlete Kalen Ballage. He led the team with 789 all-purpose yards last season and should have an expanded role in 2013 after the graduation of RBs Keenan Britton and Brodie Hicks. Junior QB Austin Worbington, junior RB Wyatt Aaberg and lineman Devon Martinez highlight a talented returning unit.
CANON CITY (0-0) at RAMPART (0-0)
When, Where: 1 p.m., District 20 Stadium (Liberty)
Last year: Ca?n City earned a 31-14 home victory.
Breakdown: The Rams start the new season with a tough test against a Tigers team that won seven of 10 regular-season games and reached the 4A state playoffs. Rampart coach JJ Owens, entering his third year, sees the pieces coming together for continued improvement. The biggest factor will be if Rampart can tighten a defense that allowed nearly 34 points a game last season. Offense shouldn't be a problem with transfer QB Cameron Hacker to go with returning WR Donovan Oldham and RB Quincy Marshall, among others. Ca?n City lost its workhorse in RJ Stainbrook but does have an experienced QB returning in senior Logan Nethercot. Senior RB Tyler Templeton, who ran for nine touchdowns last year, steps into the top role behind Nethercot.
KEVIN CARMODY, THE GAZETTE