Colorado's best high school football teams, preseason players of the year and games to watch.
Colorado Preseason Top 10
1. Valor Christian Eagles (Highlands Ranch)
Despite a coaching change, there is just too much talent on the four-time defending state champions (won in three classifications) to pick against them. The offensive line features five 300-pounders paving the way for the state’s best player (Christian McCaffrey).
2. ThunderRidge Grizzlies (Highlands Ranch)
Routinely in the mix these days, the Grizzlies were ranked No. 1 in the state deep into the playoffs last season and have enough returning to make another run.
3. Cherokee Trail Cougars (Aurora)
The Cougars are a rugged team that didn’t allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in a game last season, and they held mighty Valor Christian to nine in the state championship game.
4. Ralston Valley Mustangs (Arvada)
Quarterback Jacob Knipp returns for his senior season after completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,646 yards with 28 touchdowns as a junior.
5. Pomona Panthers (Arvada)
Running backs Chris Benefiel, Konner Burns and Chris Marquez lead the Panthers’ potent rushing attack.
6. Cherry Creek Bruins (Greenwood Village)
Coach Dave Logan, now in his second season at Cherry Creek, always seems to have his team in the mix for a conference title.
7. Monarch Coyotes (Louisville)
The defending 4A state champion reloads with the addition of quarterback Jay MacIntyre, the son of Colorado’s football coach.
8. Denver South Rebels
The 2012 runner-up in Class 4A has the bulk of its key contributors back and just might be the favorite.
9. Arapahoe Warriors (Centennial)
This team lost only twice last season, both times against powerhouse programs. The Warriors have key components coming back.
10. Pueblo West Cyclones
Last season, four players rushed for at least 398 yards as the Cyclones went 12-1.
Three Can't Miss Games
8.24 – Central (Fresno, Calif.) at Valor Christian
A quality opponent should give Valor Christian a tough test as it begins its bid to repeat in the state’s top classification.
9.7 – ThunderRidge at Ralston Valley
An early top-five matchup in non-league play will give one of these powers a leg up.
10.4 – Cherokee Trail at Cherry Creek
Both of these teams will have something to say about who wins the Centennial League.
2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)
Senior, 6-0, 195
The youngest son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey plays both running back and slot receiver for his team and could do either when he heads to Stanford next year. He’s a threat from any spot on the field and also returns kicks.
2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Evan White, S, Cherokee Trail (Aurora)
Senior, 6-3, 190
White is a bruising athlete who might be a linebacker in college but has the speed to stick in the secondary. He intercepted seven passes as a junior in his first season playing primarily as a defensive back. He also helped his track team win a state championship in the 4x200 relay.
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