In good company

County football players named to All-State teams

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— The Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Soroco high school football teams landed eight players on the Rocky Mountain News' All-State teams announced Thursday.

Four of the players -- Steamboat's Scott Stanko, Soroco's Nick Rangel and Hayden's Keenan Bruchez and Tyson Letlow -- are seniors.

The other four -- Steamboat's Westin Cofer, Lane Shipley and Jay Hanley and Hayden's Brandon Ford -- will be back on Routt County football fields next fall.

A message has been sent, Steamboat Springs football coach Aaron Finch said, and he hopes past, present and future players are paying attention.

"Individual honors are about the team doing well," Finch said. "Every player on the team can take credit. We have to look at these as team awards."

Steamboat finished 10-3 and advanced to the Class 3A semifinals. The Sailors were rewarded with four players named to All-State teams.

Shipley, who finished with 72 tackles and a team-high 7.5 sacks, was a first-team All-State selection on the defensive line.

"Those are pretty gaudy numbers," Finch said. "The way defenses work today, linebackers are supposed to get all the tackles."

Although Cofer -- the Sailors' starting middle linebacker -- didn't get all the tackles, he recorded a team-high 130 tackles, including an impressive 10 tackles-for-loss. He also was named to the first-team All-State squad. Cofer and Shipley were two of the five juniors named to the first team. The other 20 first-team All-State selections were seniors.

Stanko, a senior, began the season as a cornerback before moving to free safety. He finished with 63 tackles, six interceptions and was named to the second-team All-State squad along with sophomore teammate Jay Hanley.

"Scott is such a solid tackler and filled the lanes so well," Finch said.

Like his teammates, Hanley's numbers speak for themselves. Despite missing what amounted to four games because of a thumb injury, Hanley finished with 1,334 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Most of Hanley's yardage came during nonleague games, including the 528 yards he racked up during Steamboat's three playoff games.

Hanley was named to the second-team All-State squad as a kick returner. He rarely returned kicks, so he likely was given that designation because News writers thought he deserved to be on the second team. Only two running backs are named to the first- and second-team All-State teams.

Finch called his four players Thursday morning to tell them the news before they read about it.

"This means the expectations are going to be high next year," Finch said. "We won't surprise anyone, but, boy, it's nice to have great athletes coming back. But how far we made it this year was because of a great team."

Bruchez and Letlow were named to the first-team All-State team for the Tigers. The honor is Bruchez's second in as many years. Last year, Bruchez was voted the state's top punter in Class A, and Hayden coach Shawn Baumgartner thought Bruchez might receive the nod again after averaging 37 yards a punt this year.

Instead, Bruchez was voted to the All-State team as a defensive back. He finished with 66 tackles and three interceptions. Bruchez also was used as a linebacker and defensive end.

"He is a good safety," Baumgartner said. "He is definitely a good safety."

Letlow was named to the All-State team as a wide receiver after finishing the season with 35 receptions for 669 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Ford, one of the best linebackers in the state, was voted to the second-team All-State squad for the second year. He finished with 111 tackles and two sacks.

"He probably had more than two sacks," Baumgartner said.

Soroco's Nick Rangel was an honorable mention All-State pick at running back.

The News gets help from state coaches when compiling its lists. A coach is asked to nominate players from his team and other teams. That information is used to put together the final lists.

Florence's Jeremy Young was named Offensive Player of the Year in Class 3A. Florence coach Mark Buderus was named Coach of the Year after leading Florence to the state title. Niwot's David Angilau was named Defensive Player of the Year.

In Hayden and Soroco's classification, Limon's Tyson Liggett and L.D. Meier were named Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively, after their team won the state title. Byers coach David Dodge was Coach of the Year.

The Denver Post has not released its All-State teams.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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