Conferences have shifted, one school has changed classifications and there are two new coaches as high school football gears up for local schools.
All the change means there’s plenty of intrigue in the 2014 season, which hits full go locally on Aug. 29.
Here are five things to watch this football season.
Will Rocky Mountain contend for a conference title?
The 2013 season was an odd one for Rocky Mountain. The Lobos went 2-3 in the Front Range League, including losses to both Poudre and Fort Collins, but they were the highest-seeded local team in the Class 5A playoffs.
A 35-12 loss in the first round to Chatfield ended Rocky Mountain’s season.
The Lobos are loaded with returning talent, including two Division I commits in punter Alex Kinney (University of Colorado) and offensive lineman Salofi Gaoa (Colorado State). Rocky Mountain also returns quarterback Tausolia Liufau, running back Josh Rhead, all-around athlete Riley Neal and linebacker Max McDonald.
Rocky Mountain should be strong, but it’s a big battle to top FRL defending champions Mountain Range and newcomers Fairview (last year’s 5A runners-up and No. 9 in AP preseason poll) and Monarch.
How will Fort Collins fare in 4A?
The Lambkins were the only local team other than Rocky Mountain to make the 5A playoffs last year. Fort Collins quickly got knocked out via a 49-7 loss against Regis Jesuit.
Due to dropping enrollment, the Lambkins have dropped to 4A in football for the 2014-16 cycle. They jump into a conference with Broomfield, Greeley Central, Mountain View, Silver Creek and Skyline.
The Lambkins return quarterback Kyler Sigsbee, but graduated the only player to rush for more than 100 total yards last season in Langston Stuckey. Leading receiver from 2013 Garrett Kerbs also graduated, but Fort Collins does return seven starters on both sides of the ball.
Only 16 teams make the playoffs in 4A, rather than the bloated 32 allowed in 5A, so the Lambkins will have to fight through a difficult Northern Conference to make the postseason.
How will first-year coaches do at Fossil Ridge and Poudre?
Brian Tinker replaces Steve Vecchio, who stepped down after Fossil Ridge’s 1-9 season last year.
The SaberCats have had success at the young levels, with the freshman team going undefeated last year. Now they’ll have to move that success to the varsity level.Fossil Ridge will lean heavily on senior quarterback Mitchell Salmela.
Poudre is now led by Marty McVicker after Dan Reardon left to coach Wheat Ridge. The Impalas went 3-0 against city opponents last year but have to replace star quarterback Cody Limmer and receiver Spencer Long. Speedster Nathan Gish will be the key playmaker.
Can Windsor win its third-straight conference title in 4A?
The Wizards shift to the Longs Peak Conference where they’ll battle with Longmont for the title. Windsor is ranked No. 7 in 4A in the AP poll and Longmont is No. 4.
Tanner Bohm will lead the option attack, but Windsor needs replacements for Drew and Blake Bunday and Wil Dressor in the running game.
The defense was best in 4A last year and will lean on star defensive end Corte Tapia and linebacker Cody Johnson to be similarly strong this season.
Will Resurrection Christian reload for another playoff run?
The Cougars made the 1A quarterfinals last year and were seconds away from a semifinal appearance before a heartbreaking Buena Vista touchdown knocked them out.
RCS lost its top rusher, receiver, sacker and tackler from last year. They’ll lean heavily on senior quarterback Luke Mondt and a group of playmakers like Evan Anderson and Dakota Murrow.
The Cougars also have a new conference, joining Lyons, Platte Canyon, Clear Creek, Front Range Christian, Cornerstone Christian and Estes Park in the North Central League.
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Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
1310 KFKA radio broadcast schedule
7 p.m. Sept. 12: Windsor vs. Fort Collins
6 p.m. Sept. 18: Longmont vs. Fort Collins
7 p.m. Sept. 25: Fort Collins at Loveland
7 p.m. Oct. 10: Longmont at Windsor
7 p.m. Oct. 16: Silver Creek vs. Fort Collins