Football: 2017 Vista PEAK football team at a glance

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Vista PEAK head coach John Sullivan, right, has a senior quarterback he can rely on in Derrick Smashum, who tossed a state-leading 40 touchdown passes last season. Smashum and a large senior class hope the Bison can be just as prolific and use it to make the program’s first state playoff appearance. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | The 2017 Vista PEAK 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

VISTA PEAK

Mascot: Bison

Coach: John Sullivan

Last year: 6-4 overall (3-2 in East Metro League), missed Class 3A state playoffs

FOOTBALL 2017: VISTA PEAK BISON

2017 season outlook: Coach John Sullivan hopes to continue the incremental improvement of Vista PEAK’s young program and he’ll do it with maybe the largest senior classes the program has ever had (14 are on the roster) and one that is determined to make the program’s first state playoff appearance. As long as an offensive line without a ton of size can hold up, the Bison should again be one of the most prolific offenses in the state as it was last season when it averaged better than 40 points per game. Former Gateway head coach Shane Ward is now in the fold and seeks to keep things rolling behind senior quarterback Derrick Smashum, the East Metro League Player of the Year who led the state in touchdown passes last season with 40. Smashum accounted for more than 3,500 yards of total offense and could approximate those numbers again with plenty of weapons to work with, especially as far as passcatchers in his twin brother Daniel, plus juniors J.J. Augustus and Tyshun Hamilton. All of them were All-East Metro League selections a year ago and though they lost another all-league pick in Dylan Holt, senior Dudley Conner IV should help make up for the loss. Senior running back Tyrese Bailey will aim to add balance for the Bison as he rushed for 372 yards and three touchdowns last season in just five games and also caught a few passes out of the backfield. Sullivan normally works with the offensive side of the football, but will focus on the defense this season as he hopes to help a unit that allowed 31.5 points per game and saw two opponents rack up more than 60. He believes significant progress can be made if the Bison cut down on the scores of missed tackles they had last season. Senior linebacker Dechlyn Miller returns for a third year as a starter and the line is bolstered by junior Jeremiah Blackwood, like Miller a second team all-league honoree last season and the team’s co-leader in sacks with 6.0, plus promising freshman Montral Hamrick. Hamilton — last season’s East Metro League Specialist MVP — should help the return game and junior kicker Noah Karwacki could be a factor with his leg.

Schedule breakdown: Vista PEAK has the same schedule in front of it, which appears loaded at the beginning and the end. The Bison begin with back-to-back contests against Erie (Sept. 1) and Mead (Sept. 8), teams that dealt them losses by a combined score of 110-37 last season and won 15 games between them last season. Vista PEAK has the same stretch that produced six straight wins last season and finish up against Thomas Jefferson (Oct. 27) and Palmer Ridge (Nov. 3), which dealt it back-to-back defeats to end last season and keep the Bison out of the playoffs.

2017 VISTA PEAK FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Home games bold and uppercased (home games played at Aurora Public Schools Stadium): Friday, Sept. 1 — ERIE, 6:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 8 — at Mead, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 15 — at Adams City, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 21 — GATEWAY, 6:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 29 — at Lutheran, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 6 — vs. Denver North at All-City Stadium, 4 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 12 — KENNEDY, 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 19 — LINCOLN, 6:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 27 — vs. Thomas Jefferson at All-City Stadium; Friday, Nov. 3 — PALMER RIDGE, 6:30 p.m.