If there were any season where all the necessary ingredients seemed to be in place for Cottonwood to make a big splash in the 4A title chase, this would be the one.
The Colts have an experienced offensive line that is anchored by a pair of high-level Division I prospects in John Martinez and Percy Taumoelau. Cottonwood has plenty of potent players who can put up points in a hurry behind that line led by senior running back Isi Sofele, one of the state's best at that position.
"This group on offense they have the chance to be really special," Colts coach Cecil Thomas said. "They've played together for a long time now."
And the defense, though still young and raw at some spots, has plenty of talent to draw on.
Creating success in the regular season has not been an issue in recent seasons. Advancing through the playoffs is another story. Since their move to 4A in 2005, the Colts often find themselves lumped in with state title contenders only to suffer one early playoff exit after another.
"It annoys me but, at the same time, it makes me want to go harder," said Martinez, about the playoff disappointments.
How well Cottonwood does could largely hinge on just how quickly its youthful defense can mature.
The Colts will start three sophomores on the defensive line. The other position groups are a little less green, with two senior linebackers anchoring that unit and the secondary returning a starter and a pair of key reserves returning from last fall.
Thomas thinks a little game experience is all that is needed on that side of the ball to bring it up to the level the offense already enjoys.
"Our scheme is there," Thomas said. "I'm not worried about scheme and I'm not worried about the athletes we have over there. It's just a matter of becoming mature on that side of the football. Everything else is there."
Everything is already there on offense. Sofele showed just how dangerous of a runner he could be last fall when he torched opposing defenses for 1,436 yards and 18 touchdowns on 237 carries.
His teammates are expecting even bigger things from him this fall.
"Isi is amazing," Martinez said. "He's so shifty that the linebackers don't even know what to do with him."
Cottonwood is far from one-dimensional. Senior quarterback Steve Romero can make plenty of good things happen with his arm too. Romero threw for 2,080 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing 54 percent of his passes a year ago.
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Cottonwood Colts 2008
COACH: Cecil Thomas (2nd year)
KEY PLAYERS: The offense is loaded with stars like Isi Sofele (RB) and Steve Romero (QB) back for another season. The Colts have a strong line as well, with John Martinez (OL) and Percy Taumoelau (OL) leading the way. On defense, Assi Hosea (LB) and Jason Bilanzich (LB) give the unit some much-needed experience.
QUESTION MARK: Cottonwood enjoys loads of talent and experience on offense. Defense is more of a work in progress. Can the Colts get the most out of the promising, but inexperienced, newcomers on that side of the ball?
PREDICTED REGION 6 FINISH: First
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: It's hard to see Cottonwood claiming a 4A title with Timpview looking stronger than ever. But the Colts should be right in the mix until the end. A semifinal berth and perhaps even a title game appearance are likely on the radar.