The ball won’t be kicked off for another two months, but Brophy College Preparatory is already focused on the challenge that lies ahead.
Last season, the Broncos finished as Division I, Section 4 Champions after a loss in the state semifinal to Hamilton High School. The 24-7 loss was the second loss suffered at the hands of the Hamilton Huskies in the 2014 campaign. The Broncos lost to Hamilton earlier in the season by a score of 41-6.
Brophy head coach Andrew “Scooter” Molander said the Broncos were better prepared the second time around.
“We played them later in the season so we had progressed and gotten better,” Coach Molander said in June 9 phone interview. “We battled in the first half of the semi-final but we ran out of steam. They’re a great program.”
The Broncos will have a bye week before they head to Hamilton for a rematch on Oct. 8, and Brophy’s senior quarterback Cade Knox says he is looking forward to the game.
“I love matching up with (Hamilton),” Knox said. “Desert Ridge High School is a lot like Hamilton for me too. They beat us twice my sophomore year and we were able to beat them twice last year.”
The Broncos take on Desert Ridge on Sept. 25, two weeks before the Hamilton match up.
Knox is heading into his senior year after throwing for 2,306 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions during his junior year, according to MaxPreps.com. Knox says he hopes to have an even better senior year.
“I definitely want to improve and get better,” Knox said. “The little things, when they are put together, make a big difference. The mental side of the game is huge, too. I want to keep everyone on the same page.”
Coach Molander, above all else, says he wants his quarterback to have a good time.
“I want him to enjoy it, that’s the most important part — have fun with it,” Coach Molander said. “He takes everything seriously, and at the position of quarterback you have to. I just want him to enjoy his senior season.”
Last season, the Broncos had two productive running backs in Ryan Velez and Noah Pittenger. Velez led the Broncos in rushing with 1,087 yards during his junior year, while Pittenger, a sophomore, added 480 yards, averaging 8.6 per carry, according to MaxPreps.com.
Coach Molander says he expects similar production from his running backs.
“We have two great running backs in Velez and Pittenger,” Coach Molander said. “That’s a position we’re very confident in. We have two very quality guys.”
Also returning this year for the Broncos is Walker Adams, a senior middle linebacker who sat out last season with a torn ACL. Coach Molander says Adams improved mentally last season and will play in his senior season.
“He’s got a high football IQ,” Coach Molander said. “Even though he was injured last year, he was at practices and he helped out a lot. He practiced during spring ball and he looked like himself. He’ll be ready to go.”
Adams had a stand-out sophomore season, recording 134 total tackles, and he expects that and more as he returns from his injury.
“I expect to be better than I was,” Adams said in a June 10 phone interview. “They won’t get an 80 percent Walker Adams, I’m bringing it full-throttle. The middle linebacker sees a lot of action.”
Adams said despite his injury, he improved during his junior season.
“I spent a lot of time in the film room,” Adams said. “The game has slowed down a lot for me and I can analyze more now.”
Next Man Up
Although the Broncos have a lot of talent returning, they cannot forget they lost Isaiah Oliver, a three-way player that caught 50 balls for 1,352 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Oliver also returned kicks and punts and had a team-high seven interceptions.
Coach Molander says Oliver, now a defensive back and track athlete at the University of Colorado, will be missed.
“You can never fully replace a guy like that. He had an incredible year,” Coach Molander said. “A guy like that — he’ll have a great college career.”
Coach Molander says the Broncos will fill the void left by Oliver’s graduation with numerous players.
“That’s the great thing about football, it requires 11 guys understanding their roles and trusting each other,” Coach Molander said.
Other key losses on defense include Dakota Ducar (3.5 sacks, 74 tackles), Jack Garcia (113 tackles), Jack Haddon (96 tackles) and Cole Wiegand (95 tackles). Adams says the Broncos have players ready to step up into a varsity role.
“They’re great football players and you really can’t replace them,” Adams said of last year’s seniors. “But we have a lot of young guys coming up.”
Coach Molander echoed the same confidence in the young players.
“Certainly we lost some great players last year,” Coach Molander said. “We’ve got some young guys that had significant playing time last years and some good ones from JV coming up.”
The Broncos will be looking to avenge their two losses to Hamilton in their seventh game of the year, but they cannot be looking past the first six match ups in their grueling Division-I schedule. Coach Molander says the Broncos will be challenged each and every week.
“We have a very tough schedule and we need to be ready to go every week,” Coach Molander said. “There’s no off-weeks in Division-I football. We need to control the things we can control and hopefully have a little bit of luck too.”
Knox also knows the road won’t be easy, but he says he wants the Broncos back into the playoffs with their eyes on the ultimate prize in 2015.
“We want to win a state championship,” Knox said. “I expect us to never have a game where we are not in it. There shouldn’t be a moment where we don’t deserve to be on the same field as the team we’re playing.”