Coach: Robert O’Brien, 2nd season
2014 record: 3-7 overall, 1-5 in 5A South Metro League (missed 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Anthony Wilson, 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, OL/DL, sr.; Josh Hanible, 6-0, 158, WR/DB, sr.; Kenneth Powell, RB/S, sr.; Qua’Sean Smith, LB/RB, sr.; Ramzee Howard, 5-10, 180, QB, jr.; Eman McNeal, 6-1, 150, WR/QB, sr.; Jermohd Ford, 6-5, 195, WR, jr.; Calvin Pope, RB, soph.
2015 outlook: Coach Robert O’Brien had a difficult task in his first season as Hinkley’s head football coach in 2014, as he came in following an encouraging campaign for the Thunderbirds in 2013 that included the program’s first trip to the Class 5A playoffs in five seasons. Looking to build on the energy of that accomplishment, O’Brien and Hinkley got off to a 3-1 start on the season, but five straight losses — all in South Metro League play — dropped the Thunderbirds out of a contention for another playoff spot and sent them to a non-playoff Week 10 game that also ended in defeat. O’Brien feels like he and his entire coaching staff got more on the same page after a year together and that showed through the summer, when they came up with more ways to put the players in “a position to great things.” Leading the charge for Hinkley is senior lineman Anthony Wilson, a two-time all-conference first team selection as a left tackle who lists an offer from Chadron State, with several other college programs keeping an eye on him. Wilson is a leader by example, but can get vocal when needed and holds his teammates accountable. That should be less the case on the offensive line, as four players who saw significant time on the line return. Junior Ramzee Howard split time with senior Eman McNeal at quarterback last season, but gradually took on more of the role by the end of the season. With the Thunderbirds hoping to use McNeal’s speed more as a wide receiver this year, Howard should see the majority of the snaps under center and has weapons to work with in McNeal, senior Josh Hanible and blossoming 6-5 junior Jermohd Ford. Senior Kenneth Powell and sophomore Calvin Pope represent Hinkley’s greatest threats on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, O’Brien is glad to have leading tackler and hard-hitting senior linebacker Qua’Sean Smith on his team’s side, plus Wilson (4.5 sacks in 2014) in a variety of spots along the line and a defensive backfield that features the physical Hanible and Powell — second behind Smith in tackles a year ago — at safety. Schedule: O’Brien is happy because Hinkley technically gets to play eight of its nine regular season games on its own campus at APS Stadium, as three of its road games are against other Aurora Public Schools teams (Aurora Central, Gateway, Rangeview) that use the same facility as a home field. The Thunderbirds’ lone roadie is a long one, however, as they travel to Grand Junction to cap the season Oct. 24. Hinkley has the identical schedule with the rival Trojans, Montbello and Westminster in the non-league ahead of South Metro play, during which they face Smoky Hill, which beat the Thunderbirds 39-32 in overtime last season.
Schedule: Home games in all caps (played at Aurora Public Schools Stadium): Friday, Aug. 28 — vs. Aurora Central at APS Stadium, 6 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 4 — MONTBELLO, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 12 — WESTMINSTER, noon; Thursday, Sept. 17 — vs. Gateway at APS Stadium, 6 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 25 — ARAPAHOE, 6 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 2 — vs. Rangeview at APS Stadium, 6 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 9 — HERITAGE, 6 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 15 — SMOKY HILL, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 24 — vs. Grand Junction at Stocker Stadium, 5 p.m.