Dustin Tupper thought his Lewis-Palmer football team could have won the 3A State Championship last season. The Rangers blew through the regular season, going 9-1 and earning the No. 4 seed in the 3A playoffs.
After beating Longmont in the first round, Lewis-Palmer felt confident about its quarterfinal matchup with Silver Creek. But after a missed extra point at the end of the game, the Rangers fell, 28-27.
"It's a good example that there's no guarantees," Tupper said. "... I always tell my guys that heart doesn't guarantee anything. Not working hard does, so at least you get an opportunity to throw your name in the hat if you work your tail off. And my guys this year are really seeing that."
Offensively, after losing last year's quarterback, Kevin Tims, to graduation, Lewis-Palmer is entering the season unsure of who will start under center. Senior Cole Recker and junior Colton Baroni are the top two candidates for the job, according to Tupper.
No matter who is at quarterback, though, the Rangers will likely rely on senior running back Dieudonne Chea. Chea led the team with 1,290 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
"So far, (the quarterback competition) hasn't made anything difficult," Chea said over the summer. "Both Cole (Recker) and Colton Baroni are really good quarterbacks. They both take first-team reps, and it's been working pretty well so far."
Jordan Pshigoda made the first team 3A Southern all-conference team last season as a safety, and Tupper says the senior will be shifting between safety and linebacker this season.
Along with Pshigoda, the Rangers will lean on senior free safety Carter Kreischer, while senior nose tackle Patrick Haggard is expected to anchor the line.
For Haggard, it isn't just heightened pressure on the defensive line that he's had to deal with, but also the added responsibility of being a senior leader.
"This year it's a lot different, because I've always been a shadow to those older guys," Haggard said over the summer.
Ultimately, Lewis-Palmer aims to replicate the mindset of last year's team, and from there, improve on the results.