Realignment of prep football leagues unveiled
The Aspen Times
The face of Colorado high school football is changing.
A realignment of teams and classifications won preliminary approval this week from the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), the governing agency for Colorado prep sports.
After four seasons playing in the far-flung Western League of Class 2A football, the Aspen Skiers will be part of a newly formed Northwest League, consisting of six high schools.
The new Northwest League (there was a former Northwestern League that operated up through the 1980s) will include Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge (New Castle), Moffat County (Craig) and Battle Mountain (Vail area).
The league includes Roaring Fork, which is moving back up to Class 2A football after several years at the 1A level.
Battle Mountain and Moffat County are dropping down from 3A to play 2A football in the Northwest League.
Formerly, Aspen played the likes of Pagosa Springs, Bayfield and Olathe in the widespread Western League, which included some of the longest trips among Class 2A conferences.
Olathe now will be part of the new Southwest League in 2A football. It will feature Bayfield, Gunnison, Pagosa Springs, Montezuma-Cortez and Alamosa.
There will be six 2A leagues in the state under the plan, which still needs final approval.
The eight-team Colorado League will feature Alameda, Denver North, Denver West, Faith Christian, Kent Denver, Machebeuf, Manual and Ridgeview Academy.
Alameda, Denver North, Denver West and Manual all are dropping down from a higher classification.
The eight-team Frontier League will include Strasburg, formerly of the powerhouse Patriot League.
Strasburg will join the Academy, Bennett, Jefferson, KIPP Collegiate, Middle Park, Pinnacle and Sheridan in the Frontier League.
The new Patriot League will be led by reigning state champion Platte Valley (Kersey) along with Brush, Eaton, Sterling, Greeley University and Valley.
The sixth 2A league will be the Tri Peaks League: Florence, La Junta, Lamar, Manitou Springs, St. Mary’s (Colorado Springs) and Trinidad.
The new Class 2A league configuration retains many traditional rivalries and also accommodates the changing enrollment patterns of Colorado’s urban and rural high schools.
Grand Valley, a former member of the Western League along with Aspen, will drop down to the 1A ranks and will join the Class 1A Western Slope League. Grand Valley, which grew in numbers during the natural gas boom in western Garfield County, lost enrollment and now will play in a conference with Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Meeker, Lake County (Leadville) and reigning 1A state champion Paonia.
In a move affecting Class 3A football, Glenwood Springs will be part of the 3A Western Slope League along with Delta, Eagle Valley, Palisade, Rifle, Steamboat Springs, Summit and Grand Junction Central.
Central will drop down from Class 4A.
The new Class 4A alignment will feature some dramatic travel changes for state runner-up Montrose.
The Indians will be in the 4A Foothills League along with a host of Colorado Springs-area schools: Falcon, Mesa Ridge (Colorado Springs), Sand Creek (Colorado Springs), Vista Ridge (Colorado Springs) and Widefield.
The realignment will halt the longtime Montrose-Durango football rivalry.
Durango, still in 4A football, will be in the Pikes Peak League along with more Colorado Springs schools — Air Academy, Liberty, Palmer Ridge, Pine Creek and Rampart.
Grand Junction and Fruita Monument, the region’s two largest schools, remain the Western Slope’s Class 5A schools for football.
Fruita Monument has been assigned to the Continental North League along with Rock Canyon, Highlands Ranch, Mountain Vista, ThunderRidge and Regis Jesuit.
Grand Junction will play in the South Metro League along with Arapahoe, Gateway, Heritage, Hinkley, Rangeview and Smoky Hill.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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