A COVID-shortened 14-game season gets underway this week in basketball gyms across Colorado. The boys preseason rankings released by the Colorado High School Activities Association might mean little after only a handful of practices that were allowed to officially begin on Jan. 18, but three of the top four and six of the top 14 among Class 4A schools are in the Northern League, where St. Vrain Valley School District is well represented.
“Everyone is in uncharted waters,” said Jeff Kloster, the longtime Longmont head coach. “We’ve never gone through anything like this. But to be able to have an opportunity, that’s a blessing in itself.”
Mead High School came in at No. 1 in the CHSAA preseason rankings voted on by coaches. It finished with a 25-1 overall record and went on a playoff run last season but the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Mead never got an opportunity to battle for a state title. Just hours before the Mavericks’ semifinal matchup with Northfield in March, the state tournaments were canceled in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Although five graduating seniors missed out on a championship, Mead is still a difficult opponent for anyone who crosses its path in 2021. Led by junior Corby Tecu and senior Marcus Santiago, among others, Mead begins its season at 6 p.m. Friday at Horizon.
Longmont High, which had a 22-4 finish and a league title in 2020, earned a preseason rank of No. 3 in the CHSAA poll. This is Kloster’s 28th season at the head of the Trojan team. He led Longmont to a 2018 state championship and another run to the finals in 2019.
Kloster, who has won 477 games as the Trojans head coach, said some juniors and underclassmen will need to step up their roles this year.
“We’ve basically got one kid who’s coming back from last year’s team that saw a lot of time,” Kloster said. “People around the state have respect for what our kids have done in the past.”
Two of the potential big scorers for Longmont make up one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the state on the football field. Junior Keegan Patterson passed for almost 2,000 yards in six games and directed 77 throws at his classmate, Caleb Johnson.
Longmont will travel to No. 6 Evergreen for its season opener at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Both of the Trojans’ crosstown rivals, Silver Creek and Skyline, also get started this week.
While they are similar in size and share the same league with 4A Longmont, the Raptors and Falcons were reclassified this year as Class 5A for basketball. If either school qualifies for the postseason, it will have to compete with bigger schools for a state title.
“It’s a little misleading when you look at our participation rate in athletics at our school,” said Skyline’s sixth-year head hoops coach Tyler Cerveny. “But we’re going to play who they tell us to play.”
Silver Creek was bounced from the 2020 postseason in a third-round loss to Mead in February. Skyline lost 56-53 to The Classical Academy in the same round.
The Silver Creek boys season starts at 6 p.m. today with a game at Prairie View.
Skyline coach Cerveny said his concern as the season starts is filling the void left by injured senior Hayden Robison.
Robison, who would have been a starter for the fourth consecutive season, tore his ACL in practice last month and is out for the year.
Skyline, which started its season Monday at Prairie View, also will rely on several athletes who played football this year.In response to the coronavirus pandemic, athletes must wear masks throughout the games and coaches and other personnel on the bench also must be masked at all times, according to the CHSAA 2021 Basketball Bulletin.