Football: Prepared or not, four Aurora teams play in Zero Week

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Overland makes its 2015 debut with new starter Ray Rountree, center, at quarterback. The Trailblazers take on Smoky Hill with the Wagon Wheel trophy at stake in a Zero Week contest at 7 p.m.  on Aug. 28, 2015, at Stutler Bowl. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Overland makes its 2015 debut with new starter Ray Rountree, center, at quarterback. The Trailblazers take on Smoky Hill with the Wagon Wheel trophy at stake in a Zero Week contest at 7 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2015, at Stutler Bowl. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Hopefully none of Seth Replogle’s Overland football players will be wearing the wrong size pants during Friday’s Zero Week contest vs. Smoky Hill.

That’s the type of thing that’s keeping the Trailblazers’ coach up at night these days, as he addresses all the details of getting his team ready to play before most other Colorado teams for the second straight season.

Aurora Central meets Hinkley at 6 p.m. at Aurora Public Schools Stadium and Replogle’s Overland team takes on Smoky Hill at 7 p.m. at Stutler Bowl in a reprisal of Zero Week 2014. The challenges haven’t changed for the locals or the 30-plus teams in a variety of classifications who get underway early.

“Zero Week is tough, we’re just making sure we’ve got everything ready, down to all the little things you don’t think about,” Replogle said Thursday. “Making sure kids’ names are spelled right on the roster, making sure they have enough practices, that we have helmet decals, the right socks and the right size pants they need. There’s a lot of little things that are consuming a lot of time.”

Replogle’s first experience with a Zero Week game as a head coach came last season, when the Trailblazers posted a lopsided 50-15 victory over Smoky Hill, their former Centennial League rival.

Even if Overland — which used the Zero Week game to open the season on a four-game winning streak — gets another win this season, Replogle said he is unlikely to want to play in Zero Week in the future if he can avoid it.

“We’re going to do some things tomorrow that are stupid; Zero Week games are always sloppy,” Replogle said. “I think it would be a lot better to have a scrimmage instead, that way there aren’t a lot of people there and it doesn’t count. Then we could come in and watch film and see what things we can fix…But it is what it is and the other team has to deal with it, too.”

What Replogle does like about this season’s set up is because they play in Zero Week, the Trailblazers get a bye in Week 4. That gives them two weeks after their Sept. 19 game against Legend to prepare for the Centennial League “gauntlet,” which begins with last season’s 5A state runner-up, Valor Christian, on Oct. 1.

Another potential positive from Zero Week for both Overland and Smoky Hill is winning the Wagon Wheel traveling trophy, which made its debut in the series between the former Centennial League rivals last season.

The Trailblazers won the meeting between the teams — the 32nd all-time — and got custody of the Wagon Wheel, which has been in Replogle’s office since last season.

Overland, which got a pep talk from former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, former Trailblazers coach Tony Manfredi and a number of former Overland prep stars on Thursday, ushers in a new era after the graduation of electric quarterback Austin Conway.

For Smoky Hill, the Zero Week game marks the debut of John Trahan, the program’s fourth head coach in the past four seasons who has drummed up larger numbers in the program.

The Buffaloes haven’t fared well in opening games, Zero Week or not, in the recent past, as they’ve dropped their first contest in the past seven seasons since beating Thornton to christen the 2007 campaign.

Trahan coached at Montbello for four seasons and spent last year as an assistant at Smoky Hill.

Aurora Central and Hinkley no longer play in the same league, but they renew their rivalry in the opening game of the season.

Thunderbirds coach Robert O’Brien got his first victory as head coach with a 27-6 win over the Trojans last season in front of an announced crowd of more than 2,000, but the concept still isn’t ideal.

“Zero Week is always hard, any coach who says it’s not is lying,” O’Brien said. “With only two weeks between the start of practice and the game, your kids can’t miss a practice, so it’s tough. It’s also hard to make sure in two weeks you have everything you need to have in. Everything looks good in shorts and t-shirts, but everything changes.”

That being said, O’Brien is happy to open the season against a rival, especially one against which Hinkley has had the recent advantage.

Aurora Central won the 2010 meeting by a 9-7 count, but the Thunderbirds have won the last four contests in the series, including the past two by a combined score of 80-12. The vast majority of Hinkley’s impact players return this season, led by lineman Anthony Wilson.

“If you can’t get up for this one you can’t get up any of them,” O’Brien said. “We’re as fired up as we’ve been to play. We’ll be ready to play and show what we’ve been working on.”

Aurora Central has a new head coach in Travis Peeples, who is new to Zero Week and new to the rivalry between the two oldest institutions in Aurora Public Schools.

Peeples came to Colorado from Florida and spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Greeley West, having never encountered a Zero Week game in either place.

“In Florida we had jamborees where you play a couple of teams in a scrimmage to get ready for the season, so this is brand new for me,” Peeples said. “The fact that we’re playing our crosstown rival is also a factor. I’ve already talked to our AD and I think we’d want to shy away from Zero Week games in the future. Don’t get me wrong, we run a complex offense and defense and we feel like we have it installed.

“The hardest part is game-planning for an opponent when we’re still trying to learn who we are and get down our basic rules and assignments.”

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