Yuma boys opener delayed

Yuma High School’s boys basketball team will open the 2022-23 season with three straight Top 10 clashes.
Or at least it was going to until Friday’s season opener against Manual was canceled due to the wind and road conditions. It will be rescheduled.

“Our pre-Christmas is a very strong schedule,” head coach Dave Sheffield said. “We’ll find out our strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly.”
Sheffield has led the Yuma program to three Class 2A state titles, including last season, and to the semifinals two other seasons (the 2020 tourney was canceled after Yuma won its quarterfinal), since he arrived here for the 2014-15 season.
Yuma cannot defend its 2A championship as it moves up to 3A this season, thanks to CHSAA moving from five to six classifications.
The one constant, though, is the Yuma program never has shied away from difficult competition during the age of the Rating Percentage Index, and it will be no different this season.
Yuma will remain in the Lower Platte Activity Association for league play, but has attempted to schedule as many 3A teams as possible.
It begins Friday night in The Pit when the former Indians open the 2022-23 season against Manual. It will be a 3A Top 5 matchup as Manual is No. 4 and Yuma No. 5 in the preseason Top 10 (CHSAANow.com poll).
The Thunderbolts were a big-school power decades ago, but the changing enrollment landscape in the metro Denver area eventually led to Manual falling on hard times. The Thunderbolts, though, have found their footing at the 3A level, going 16-7 and reaching the Great 8 last season, losing to Sterling in overtime in the quarterfinals last March.
They return several players from that team, including two that stand 6-foot-5.
Yuma has a lot of positives going for it, but currently height is not one of them.
“We’re going to go against that all year, so we need to take away that size,” Sheffield said.
After Friday night’s season opener, which should be a fun one, Yuma quickly turns around for another big game Saturday afternoon at Yuma County-rival Wray. The Eagles, the 2021 2A champions, reached the quarterfinals again last season, and return several players from that team. The Wray football team just played in the 1A football championship game last Saturday afternoon, but Sheffield said only a few key basketball players also play football.
The Eagles still have some good height, strong guard play, and enter the season ranked No. 3 in 2A. The do have a new head coach in long-time assistant Chris Rose, as former coach Karson Kuntz has returned to his alma mater, Otis, as an administrator.
Yuma then turns around Tuesday and travels to Kersey to take on Platte Valley. Yuma crushed the Broncos last December in The Pit, but most of the Platte Valley players return and enter the season ranked No. 9 in 3A.
Yuma lost some key seniors from last season’s title team, but Yuma is at the point it simply reloads with more exciting talent, including several who were key to the 2022 championship.
Sheffield said he will run a rotation of nine to 10 players. Among those in the running for varsity playing time include seniors Forest Rutledge, Jesus Ross, Johnny Carrillo, Daman Hernandez, Jake Haruf, Cesar Varela and Nash Richardson (who came back out after not playing last season), juniors Cristian Duarte, Angel Escobar and Cesar Gamboa, sophomore Silas Baucke and freshman Brody Sheffield.
Senior Javier Duran will be unavailable for a bit longer after suffering a serious knee injury last February. The electrifying guard is expected to return sometime after the Christmas break.
The Yuma team went to Chapparral earlier last week to scrimmage several bigger schools, and hosted Fort Morgan for a scrimmage this past Friday during the Thanksgiving break.
Sheffield said the staff learned that “We have the right personnel to run our system. We can rebound, but it’s still a big need for us. Offensively, early in the season we’ll still be getting our chemistry, people learning their roles, but they can play with bigger schools.”
Yuma will be at a size disadvantage in almost every game this season, and will try to overcome that with pressure, speed and waves of fresh players.
“It’s going to come down to every night our willingness to rebound, and minimize scoring opportunities for the other team,” Sheffield said.
The fun now will begin Saturday afternoon in Wray.