Sports 2020: A different kind of year

Well, the 2020 Sports Year in Review definitely is going to be shorter than most years.
COVID-19 wiped out months of competitions, resulted in shortened seasons and stole a chance for the YHS boys basketball team win a third straight state title.
Still, the year was not a total loss, so let’s get on with looking back at was able to transpire.

• The Yuma High School wrestlers get going first, with boys and girls both at Bennett. The girls finish second in the team standings in their tournament, while the boys finish fifth, for a good start to 2020.
• The boys team then finishes second in the Lamar Tournament the next weekend, and the girls team fourth at a tournament in Greeley.
• High school hoops gets going a little later in January, with the girls and boys teams returning to action with wins at Akron.
• The boys team gets a key league win at rival Wray, setting itself up nicely in the LPAA race.
• The Lone Star girls basketball team is starting to turn heads, starting out 7-0 on the season and in first place in the YWKC League.
• The month comes to an end with an exciting wrestling dual between rivals Yuma and Wray in The Pit, with the top-ranked Eagles barely escaping town with a 33-30 win. Yuma led 30-15 before Wray rallied.

• The month begins with the Yuma girls wrestlers competing in regional, finishing seventh as a team while qualifying four for the state tournament. Fatima Duran placed third at 111, Ashley Marshall fourth at 105, Eva Ruiz fourth at 161, and Mia Dischner fourth at 185.
• The girls then finish 13th out of 54 teams in the one-classification state tournament, combining for 31 points. Yuma placed higher than any other 2A school at the tournament. Duran placed fourth at 111 pounds. Dischner went 3-3 to place sixth at 185, and Ruiz won one match at 161. Marshall lost two close matches.
• The boys wrestling team competes at regional in Sterling, qualifying eight for the state tournament while placing third as a team with 162 points. Lars Sims placed third at 285 pounds, Blaze Brophy third at 132, Braden Smith third at 126, Alec Holtorf third at 120, Yahir Trejo third at 152, John Smith fourth at 113, Ross fourth at 145, and Cayden Lynch fourth at 182.
• The Indians end up tied for 17th with 40 points at the 2A State Tournament at Pepsi Center in Denver. Brophy made it to the championship match at 132 pounds, the first Yuma wrestler to reach the finals since 2011, when Tyler Korf won a state title. Brophy ended up losing to Byers’ Lain Yapoujian. Lynch finished fifth at 182 pounds.
• Yuma’s boys basketball team goes 8-0 in LPAA play for the third straight season, and are 17-2 overall heading into district as the No. 1 seed.
• Yuma’s girls had a roller-coaster of a regular season, but still earn the second seed for district.
• Lone Star’s girls basketball team finishes up a great regular season by winning the YWCK title, then also win the district tournament with a two-point win over Haxtun to earn a trip to regional.
• The Yuma boys are upset by Holyoke in the district semifinals, but rebound to beat Sedgwick County for third place. However, it means they will be on the road for regional instead of hosting in The Pit.
• The Yuma girls make it to the district championship, losing to top-seed Holyoke, and earning a trip to Rye for regional.
• The Stratton/Liberty boys place second in district, and the girls team third as both qualify for regional.
• YHS wrestling head coach Rory Lynch announces he is resigning.

• COVID-19 starts to enter the local sports scene, first impacting the YHS boys basketball team. A case in early March in Eagle results in the Indians’ regional in Vail to be moved further down the mountains at the last minute to Clear Creek High School near Evergreen.
• It matters little to the Indians, who cruise past Meeker and Vail Mountain to earn a third straight trip to the 2A State Tournament, with a shot at winning a third straight state title.

Clay Robinson knocks down a three-pointer during the win over Fowler, Thursday in the 2A quarterfinals. (Dave Gustafson)

• The Yuma girls see their season abruptly end with a loss to Dawson School in the regional semifinal in Rye. The program had qualified eighth straight years for the state tournament.
• The Lone Star girls beat Front Range Baptist in the regional semifinal at Englewood High School. The Longhorns then took on top-seed Fleming and built a big lead in the first half, only to see the Wildcats rally for a close win, ending the Longhorns’ season one game short of the state tournament.
• Stratton/Liberty’s girls and boys teams both are knocked out at regional.
• COVID-19 really hits home in the United States right before the Yuma boys are to play in the state tournament. The NBA abruptly ends its season as the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gorbert is confirmed positive, the night before the state tournament. CHSAA decides to move forward, but to allow only four fans per team member, and those fans could be in the arena only for their team’s game.
• Yuma ended up having a very exciting quarterfinal against the Fowler Grizzlies, escaping with a 55-51 win to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
• However, it never happened. The University of Denver informed CHSAA it would no longer host the Class 3A tournaments, so the decision was made the cancel the rest of all the tournaments.
• CHSAA also announces that spring sports are being delayed until at least April 18 due to state-mandated restrictions.
• All LPAA selections in basketball are released. Yuma’s Chase McCreath and Clay Robinson are named to the boys All LPAA Team, while Reagan Nolin and Ema Richardson are all conference on the girls side, and Elle Roth receives honorable mention.
• Several area players earn All YWKC honors.

• Bob Rahm announces his retirement from coaching after a long and successful career at YHS, including the last four as the girls head coach. He led the girls to three straight state tournaments, finishing third once before having back-to-back championship seasons. He also led the boys team once to the state tournament earlier in the decade. Rahm was 82-19 as the girls head coach, and 55-18 in three years as the boys head coach.
• All-state basketball selections are announced. Yuma’s Clay Robinson was named to the Class 2A First Team, and Chase McCreath to the Second Team. Ema Richardson earned 2A honorable mention.
• In 1Am Lone Star’s Brady Kuntz, Statton/Liberty’s Jaret Lichty, Arickaree/Woodlin’s Alan McCaffrey, Otis’ Christian Nation, Lone Star’s Alivia Weathers and Stratton/Liberty’s Andrea Hornung earned honorable mention.
• Indian Hills Golf Course is temporarily closed by the NCHD. Steps were taken and it was reopened a few days later, but only to members not the general public.
• Yuma County Commissioners raise concern about an influx of hunters for the start of the turkey season while the state is under a stay-at-home order. Colorado Parks and Wildlife eventually closed the spring turkey hunting season in Yuma County only until May 2.
• Tate Kirchenschlager is featured in the Pioneer as his career PRCA Rodeo circuit in team roping is on hiatus thanks to the pandemic. The hope was to get going again by June. Kirchenschlager had qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2019, and was sitting at 15th in the standings when the 2020 season was put on hold.
• CHSAA announces spring sports are suspended until April 30 as the state extends its stay-at-home order. Officially canceling the spring season has not been made yet.
• The announcement does come before the end of April, though, as CHSAA officially cancels the spring season. It also announces the moratorium on coach and athlete interaction will be lifted on June 1, and it will be up to individual school districts to determine the use of its buildings.
• There is some sporting news early in May as Yuma High School announces Kyle Newton has been hired as the new head wrestling coach, and Jeremy Robinson as the new head girls basketball coach. Both had been service as assistant coaches the past several years in their respective programs.
• YHS boys basketball does its team banquet in the newspaper since it could not have one in-person, giving a season summary, lettermen, awards and statistical leaders.
• The 2013 YHS baseball team is featured in the May 14 edition as it was the first to win a district title. That team advanced to the regional final, the equivalent of a state quarterfinal.
• Indian Hills Golf Course’s Men’s League begin play.
• The YHS 1996 boys track and field team is featured in the May 21 edition, revisiting how the stacked team won the Class 3A state title 24 years earlier. It remains the only team track and field state championship for the school.
• YHS leaders come up with plans to have practices and workouts in smaller groups beginning in June.
• CHSAA’s Board of Control approves changes to 2A baseball, eliminating district tournaments and increasing the number of regular season games, and then having a 32-team postseason.

• The city of Yuma announces it will have shortened summer ball seasons after its plan was approved by the Yuma County COVID-19 Task force. Certain protocols are put in place so the kids can have some kind of a summer season in T-ball, softball and baseball, along with adult co-ed softball.
• YHS, after working with the county’s other schools, has its plans for workouts approved by the Task Force. It involves the students and coaches split into different groups and going to the workouts at different times. Temp checks are done. Organized team activities still are not allowed.
• However, approval for organized team activities comes later in the month. Certain sports get to have practices on certain evenings so they do not overlap and multi-sport students can participate in all their practices.
• The Yuma-1 board approves coaching assignments for the 20-21 school year.f

• The Colorado High School Coaches Association had moved its annual all-state games from June to mid-July, but finally announce they are being canceled. Yuma’s Chase McCreath was set to play in the basketball tournament, along with Dave Sheffield serving as a coach, and Liberty’s Trevor Frank was to be in the football game.
• A lot of kids from all over show up at the outdoor basketball courts for pickup games.
• Yuma High School graduated seniors Manny Tena, Fabian Salcido and Giovanny Rodriguez got to play baseball in their Yuma uniforms one last time as they participate in the Senior Showcase presented by the Colorado Dugout Club at Aurora High School. Coaches Brady Nighswonger and Kyle Sprouse skippered their team in the 2A-1A game, which they won.
• The governor’s executive order mandating wearing masks in indoor public spaces sends YHS’s volleyball and basketball teams outdoors to City Park to have practices. Wrestling also moved outside to have practices.
• CHSAA releases enrollment parameters for all sports and activities for the 2020-22 cycle. YHS will remain in the same classifications it is in now for all sports and activities.
• The month ends with Andrews Bros. Seed winning the Yuma Recreation Department’s Adult Co-ed Softball postseason tournament title, holding off Log Cabin for the championship.
• It is announced that high school boys golf can proceed as scheduled, with practices beginning August 3 and the first competitions August 6.

• The month begins with CHSAA unveiling its calendar for 2020-21, featuring four shortened seasons. Basketball and wrestling would start right after the holidays, football and volleyball to follow in March and April, and then girls golf, baseball and track and field being held later in the spring and finishing in late June.
• The schedule also paves the way for cross country and softball to have shortened seasons in the fall, joining boys golf. Without football or volleyball in the fall, all three of those sports experience a surge in participation from YHS students.
• The YHS boys golf team opens with a strong showing at the Brush Invitational.
• It is announced Yuma Middle School and other junior highs will follow the high school schedule for sports in 2020-21.
• The YHS softball team opens its season at home August 25 with a 15-3, 12-6 sweep of Faith Christian. The Indians initially were to open their season a few days earlier at Fort Lupton, but that school shutdown after having some COVID-19 cases.
• Cross country also gets off to a strong start.
• Yuma Recreation Department announces it will offer youth fall sports in football and volleyball, all of it outdoors.

• YHS girls and boys cross country teams are enjoying strong starts to their seasons thanks to the increased roster. Plus, they got to hose YHS Cross Country Twilight Meet at Indian Hills Golf Course on a beautiful Friday late afternoon. It draws a big crowd of runners and fans. The Yuma boys won the team title, and the girls finished third in their division.
• Reports start circulating that CHSAA might go ahead with a fall football season, as the organization works with state officials to try to make it happen.
• Thanks to the Fort Lupton doubleheader being rescheduled, the YHS softball team had a long break after its season opener. The Indians have a tough time when they return to action. Then, COVID-19 hits the team, shutting everything down for two full weeks.
• The decision on going with a fall football season keeps getting delayed as CHSAA and the state continue negotiating over variances that would allow football to actually be played.
• The YHS cross country teams continue their great seasons as the girls and boys both win the Fort Morgan Invitational team titles, the first time that has ever happened in YHS cross country history.
• The green light finally is given for a fall football season. All schools in Colorado get to choose to either go with the fall or spring season. A vast majority choose fall, including Yuma and all schools in the region.
• The first day of practice is September 24. However, YHS is on remote learning due to several COVID cases, and many more being in quarantine due to contact tracing. Yuma is to open against Limon, which graciously agrees to move back the season opener to October 12, a Monday night.
• The COVID issue at YHS also impacts the boys golf team, which ends up getting to take only two golfers to the Class 3A regional, and the team also had to miss the Northeastern League Tournament in Wray. Nash Richardson shot a 96 and Brekyn Josh a 98 at regional. However, overall the YHS boys golf program had a successful campaign.
• The cross country teams, which are having great seasons, catch a break as they had a weekend off just as the school was in quarantine and remote learning.
• YHS softball finally returns to action before the end of the month after two weeks of no practices or games, getting swept at home by a tough Holyoke squad.

• The YHS football team finally gets its full roster out for practice the first of October, allowing for at least some practices before a difficult season opener.
• The cross country teams have only one practice together before going to the league meet at Wiggins. The girls finished second in the LPAA portion of the meet, and the boys third.
• Softball closed out its season with doubleheaders against Burlington and Limon, two very tough teams that swept the Indians. Though the program had more players, it struggled with the start-and-stop nature of its entire season. The softball program definitely was hit hardest by COVID disruptions.
• YHS cross country goes to regional in Lyons, and its historical season continues as the girls qualify for state as a team for the first time ever, finishing third at regional. Javier Duran on the boys team also qualifies for state. The girls team includes Abril Montes de Oca, Nuvia Vega, Caddis Robinson, Ashley Ibanez, Hailey Eyring, Samantha Wells, Meidi Reyes, Shelby Blach and Lea Richardson.
• As expected, the YHS football team has a rough opener at top-ranked Limon, losing 40-0 on Monday Night Football at Floyd Gaskill Field by I-70.
• The Yuma girls finish ninth at the 2A State Cross Country Meet in Colorado Springs, led by Shelby Blach, Hailey Eyring, Ashley Ibanez, Lea Richardson and Samantha Wells.
• The football team hosts Platte Canyon on a pleasant Saturday afternoon for its home opener, cruising to a 43-0 victory over the visitors from Bailey.
• Stratton/Liberty starts out strong again in 6-man football with blowout wins, despite losing star senior Jaret Lichty for the season early in the second game.
• Alivia Weathers, a Lone Star student that played softball for YHS this fall, earns honorable mention among the All-LPAA selections.
• Yuma football remains home for its third football game, and gets pounded by Highland 40-0 on a frigid Friday evening, falling to 1-2 overall.
• The Indians close out the month with a 28-7 win at Burlington on another pleasant Saturday afternoon, getting in the required four games to become playoff eligible. It was just the second game for Burlington, which is trying to play three games in less than a week after missing two weeks due to COVID-19.
• YMS football had a difficult start-and-stop season, but the young Indians were able to close it out on October 31 with a big win over Burlington in the league’s third-place game.

• Stratton/Liberty started the season 3-0 in October, but then start running into COVID-19 hassles as their opponents have to cancel games. The Knighted Eagles get one forfeit win, putting them at 4-0 and playoff eligible. The program then does not play its final two games as Stratton goes to remote learning.
• The Yuma JV football team has a great season, beating Highland, Limon, Burlington, and losing a close one to Strasburg, while finishing 4-1. Its game with Wray was canceled by Wray.
• Yuma football keeps rolling with a blowout win of Wiggins, 49-16, in the Indians’ Homecoming game on a sunny, but very windy Saturday afternoon.

Aiden Blanco looks for a crease in the Wiggins defense on his way to a touchdown, last Saturday. (Pioneer Photo/Jake Rayl)

• The Indians had an outside shot at the playoffs when it went to Wray for the regular season finale. They led 9-6 at halftime, but Wray dominated the second half, qualifying for the playoffs while leaving Yuma at 3-3.
• Yuma finds an extra game to play against Prospect Ridge Academy. Yuma initially scheduled 2A University, but then several players were put in quarantine, so the Indians instead lined up 1A Prospect Ridge. The remaining varsity players and the JV guys combined for a dominating 58-6 win. It leaves the Indians 4-3 on the season. It is the first time the program has had back-to-back winning seasons since 2009-2010.
• Stratton/Liberty had not played in four weeks, but the second-seed Knighted Eagles had little problem in dispatching Briggsdale in the 6-man quarterfinals, 58-39.
• Arickaree/Woodlin football won three of its last four games to finish with a 4-3 record, capped by a 60-12 win at Peetz in the extra seventh game. Otis had its seventh game at Deer Grail canceled due to COVID issues at Deer Trail, leaving the Bulldogs winless in 2020.
• Stratton/Liberty gets back to the 6-man championship game for the fourth straight year, knocking off Cheyenne Wells in the semifinals.


Alex Cruz finds room to run during the win over Briggsdale, last Saturday at Liberty. (Photo by KC Holtman)
• However, the Knighted Eagles ran into a tough Fleming squad in the championship game held at Csu-Pueblo on December 3. The game was close in the first half, but S/L missed a prime scoring opportunity right before halftime, and Fleming went on to dominate the second half.
• The start of Season B — locally meaning basketball and wrestling — was supposed to start on January 4. However, CHSAA and the CDPHE announces it has been pushed back to February 1, and the remaining sports seasons also would be pushed back. Local coaches express their frustration at the constantly-moving timetable.
• YHS football players Clay Robinson, Jose Ruiz, Juan Cortes and Joey Ross are named to the All-NCC team, while Louden Blach receives honorable mention.
• CHSAA announces two weeks later Season B can begin with practices on January 18, after getting variances approved by the CDPHE. It also is reported that girls and boys wrestling both will be limited to just 10 duals during the regular season, though there was hope to expand that a bit.
• All-state football selections are released. Yuma’s Juan Cortes is named to the Class 1A Second Team, and Clay Robinson earns honorable mention.
• In 6-man, Lone Star student Brady Kuntz, who plays for Fleming, is named Player of the Year. Stratton/Liberty’s Alex Cruz, Tyler Hase and Jaret Lichty are named to the First Team, and Logan Breyer earns honorable mention. Arickaree/Woodlin’s Samuel Koolstra earns honorable mention.
• The most unusual year ends with hope that we can get back to games at a steady rate soon after 2021 begins.