Coach: Monte Thelen, 10th season

Last year: 6-4 (lost in 1st round of 5A playoffs)

League: Class 5A Creek Conference

Players to watch: Matt Barden, 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, OT, sr.; Garrett Zimmerman, 6-2, 245, OT, sr.; Brandon Barry, 5-10, 170, WR, sr.; Darion Belt, 5-10, 175, FB, sr.; Evan White, 6-3, 185, DB, jr.; Thomas Thortvedt, 6-1, 180, DB, jr.; Kaleb Branum, 5-11, 200, LB, jr.; Cameron Currington, 5-10, 175, LB, jr.; Trent Rogers, 5-10, 185, DE, sr.; Sherman Thomas, 5-9, 165, RB, sr.; D’Andre Thortvedt, 5-10, 185, LB, sr.; Jackson Burrell, 6-2, 175, DB, sr.; Colt Jones, 6-6, 310, OL, jr.; Aric Johnson, 5-11, 160, QB, jr.; Cameron Smith, 6-0, 165, RB/DB, soph.

2012 Outlook: Coach Monte Thelen’s program has set quite a bar in the past few years since moving up to Class 5A, so losing in the first round of the playoffs last season was a  bit of a disappointment for Cherokee Trail. But the Cougars still have a streak of seven straight postseason appearances and have the talent to extend it to eight, even with the graduation of cornerstones such as quarterback Thomas Singleton and defensive lineman Dillon Zacharias. Team speed is a major asset for Cherokee Trail — which has four returning starters on both sides of the ball — as is play on the offensive line behind seniors Matt Barden and Garrett Zimmerman. The Cougars have been an explosive scoring team in the past, but inexperience at the skill positions might take the offense time to gel. Experience in the defensive backfield is another strength.

Quoting the coach: “Last year was the first year we lost in the first round of the playoffs since our first year in 4A, so the expectations of our program have grown. We want to be successful and we weren’t last year. We have a proven track record and have been accustomed to being in the playoffs, so we want to meek those expectations. …We’re a pretty young team, so consistency is one thing we’re looking for. The kids and the coaching staff are working hard, so hopefully we can put something together.”

Schedule (homes in all caps, played at Legacy Stadium): Thursday, Aug. 30 — CHATFIELD, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 7 — at Fort Collins, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 14 — GATEWAY, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 21 — at Regis Jesuit, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28 — vs. Smoky Hill at Stutler Bowl, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 5 — vs. Cherry Creek at Stutler Bowl, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 11 — GRANDVIEW, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 18 — EAGLECREST, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 26 — OVERLAND, 7 p.m.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at or 303-750-7555

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...