GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The Hotchkiss Bulldogs have long been the cream of the crop in the Western Slope football conference.
After all, they held the league title for four straight years, but last season it all came to a screeching halt when a new and extremely heated football rivalry began - one that stood between the Cedaredge Bruins and the Hotchkiss Bulldogs.
It all started in the first conference game of the season when the Bruins visited the Bulldogs in Hotchkiss and stole their home thunder with a 21-20 upset.
Less than two months later they met again - this time in the semifinal playoff game - but once again Cedaredge finished on top and went on to win the state title.
This season Hotchkiss is ready for a different outcome, but they have a few obstacles to overcome.
Not only did they lose 15 seniors, but they have just three returning starters. On top of that, their team is down six players because of a smaller incoming class so they know they have their work cut out for them.
"It's going to be tough but there's still a lot of talent on this team," said senior WR Chris Allen. "The only problem is experience, and I think we're coming along good."
"Guys know when it's their opportunity, and it's no surprise to a lot of guys that it's now their turn, and they're stepping up really well," said head coach Zac Lemon. "It's always exciting every year to see who our surprises might be. Who's the guy that's going to step in and surprise us and become a play-maker, and those guys are starting to step up and show themselves already.
Hotchkiss will open their season at home against Olathe Friday, August 30th. Their big rivalry game against top-ranked Cedaredge will come September 27th on the road.