Football: 2017 Eaglecrest football team at a glance

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Senior Victor Garnes’ play on both sides of the football was a big key to Eaglecrest’s 11-1 2016 season and he’ll be a crucial part of the Raptors’ hopes to aim higher in 2017 with a large returning cast. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | The 2017 Eaglecrest football team at a glance:

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

EAGLECREST

Mascot: Raptors

Coach: Mike Schmitt

Last year: 11-1 overall (5-0 in Mount Evans League), lost to Regis Jesuit in quarterfinals of Class 5A playoffs

FOOTBALL 2017: EAGLECREST RAPTORS

2017 season outlook: Coach Mike Schmitt has enjoyed every season of his long tenure with the Eaglecrest football team, but maybe none as much as the 2017 season. The 2016 campaign certainly ranks right up there as the Raptors won the Mount Evans League championship and finished 11-1, going undefeated until a loss to Regis Jesuit in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. But this season, Schmitt sees a level of sophistication and understanding in his large group of returning players than he has before. Maybe it will lead to a further push than last season and maybe it won’t, but Schmitt and everybody around the program are eager to find out. Not many teams in Colorado can boast the return of two league players of the year, but Eaglecrest can in Mount Evans League Offensive MVP Jalen Mergerson and Defensive MVP Victor Garnes. At quarterback, Mergerson threw for nearly 1,500 yards and rushed for 811 yards (30 total touchdowns) and has even further grasp of the offense and how his receivers will react in certain situations, while getting touches for Garnes (646 yards rushing, 546 receiving and 15 touchdowns) is paramount. Senior track star Kenny Wantings adds another dimension at running back and sure-handed senior Theryne Sandoval-Jimenez is another player the opposition has to be concerned with on a unit that averaged nearly 36 points per game a year ago, all while trying to get through a beefed-up offense line that includes junior Barrett “Bear” Miller and sophomore Reece Atteberry. Garnes is also a difference maker on the defensive side and snatched seven interceptions last season from his safety spot, while senior Cody Bardin returns after a 108-tackle 2016 season to lead a talented group of linebackers and hard-working senior Kyante Christian will be active along the line as he seeks to improve on his 3.5 sacks from last season. Junior nose tackle Matt Youngblood — who checks in at 6-feet, 324 pounds — and senior defensive back Jon Heupel will be difference makers, though they might be overlooked in Schmitt’s estimation, while a 100-tackle season isn’t out of the realm of possibility for junior linebacker Tyler Dufour, who had 89 last season. Garnes is an electric kick returner and the Raptors benefitted last season when teams chose to kick the ball shorter and out of bounds instead of risk a return or they can kick it to Wantings, a high state placer in the sprints at the state track meet.

Schedule breakdown: Eaglecrest has the same schedule in front of it in the regular season that saw it go 10-0 with quite a few lopsided results. The Raptors have a tough early stretch in which they face ThunderRidge (Sept. 8), followed by a game with rival Grandview on Sept. 15 (which was decided by seven points last season) and another former Centennial League foe Cherokee Trail on Sept. 22. Eaglecrest’s two closest Mount Evans League games last season came at the end and it closes against Ralston Valley (Oct. 26) and Arvada West (Nov. 3).

2017 EAGLECREST FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Home games bold and uppercased (home games played at Legacy Stadium): Friday, Sept. 1 — SMOKY HILL, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 8 — THUNDERRIDGE, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 15 — vs. Grandview at Stutler Bowl, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 22 — CHEROKEE TRAIL, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 28 — vs. Bear Creek at Jeffco Stadium, 4 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 6 — ROCKY MOUNTAIN, 7 p.m. (HC); Friday, Oct. 13 — vs. Rangeview at APS Stadium, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 19 — vs. Castle View at Douglas County Stadium; Thursday, Oct. 26 — RALSTON VALLEY, 7 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 3 — vs. Arvada West at NAAC, 4 p.m.