Arvada West, Swink and Regis Jesuit returning defensive football stars in 2019

(Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Monday marked the official start of the 2019 fall sports season as boys golf teams took to driving ranges and putting greens to start refining their games.

This means the start for team sports is right around the corner. As we have all summer, we have taken a look at stat leaders from a year ago that will be returning to their sports this season. Last week we highlighted the returning offensive stars on the football field. This week, it's onto the defense.

As teams get closer to strapping on the pads for real, here is a look at some names to watch on the defensive side of the ball.

Tackles

Arvada West's Elijah Olson was nothing short of ball hawk last year. His 153 were good enough to place him fifth in the state across all classifications. He returns in 2019 as the top tackler both in the state and in Class 5A. Fossil Ridge's Caden Dollar and Lakewood's Luke Hittle (both incoming juniors) also recorded solid numbers last year, totaling 119 and 116 tackles, respectively.

In 4A, Montrose's Cole Simmons made 144 tackles last year. Ponderosa's Ben Beecher wasn't far behind with 124 but a big name to watch will be Greeley Central's Yahir Chairez-Salazar who fifth in the classification with 116 tackles. Chairez-Salazar will be a sophomore in 2019.

Heavy tackling numbers weren't just reserved for the large schools. Merino's Trent Elliott recorded 143 of them as just a sophomore which tops all returning 8-man players. In 6-man, Cheyenne Wells' Quade Pelton made 141 tackles proving himself as one of the top defensive players in a classification known more for heavy offensive numbers.

Mead's Devon Edwards led all returning 3A players with 147 tackles in 2018. Platte Valley's Josh Yancey was best among 2A returners with 117 and Monte Vista's Cobi Garcia totaled 116 to top all 1A players coming back in 2019.

Sacks

Across all classifications, no player that's returning this year registered more sacks than Swink's Noah Zumwalt. His 14 from last season ranked sixth in the entire state and he is back in 2019 to once again terrorize 8-man quarterbacks.

The 6-man class has a pair of pass rushers that are looking to put up solid numbers once again this fall. Stratton/Liberty's Trevor Frank recorded 11 sacks last year which ranked him No. 3 in the class. Fleming's Brady Kuntz was right behind him with 10.

Cherokee Trail's Kobe Thompson recorded 11, leading all 5A players returning in 2019. ThunderRidge's Kaden Stewart was just a half-sack away from tying Thompson's 11.

Green Mountain's Will Banks and Pueblo East's Brandon Hall each had eight sacks to lead the pack of 3A players returning in 2019.

The 4A class had three players match those eight sacks. Vista Ridge's Emmanuel Taylor, Air Academy's Aidan Diller and Standley Lake's Jaren Cosby are all anxious to get after opposing quarterbacks this fall.

Resurrection Christian's Tanner Applebee and Alamosa's Cash Mueller each recorded seven sacks last season to lead all 2A returners.

Colorado Springs Christian's Rian Chavez had 6.5 sacks last year and will enter the season as 1A's biggest pass rushing threat.

Interceptions

In 2018, Regis Jesuit's Bryce Parson's subscribed to the theory that the opposing team can't score if it doesn't have the ball. He picked off 10 passes last year and will enter the 2019 season as the only player to record double-digit interception numbers a year ago.

He was nearly matched by Palmer Ridge's Kaden Dudley who picked off nine passes while helping the Bears win the 3A state title. His defensive output will be challenged by Mead's Trey Ward who grabbed eight interceptions last year.

Lamar's Damian Ramos and Bishop Machebeuf's Jack Farmer will each be back this year after picking off eight passes in 2A. They were tied for second in the category across the entire class last year making them a big threat should opposing teams take to the air with them on the field.

Dove Creek's Gauge Thompson led all 8-man returners with seven picks and that number was matched in 6-man by Stratton/Liberty's Jaret Lichty.

Jefferon's Devon Kemp and Holyoke's Luis Chafino each picked off six passes to top 1A's returning players.

Interceptions were spread around 4A as three players who will take the field in 2019 pulled down five of them. Gateway's Lanier Deruso, Rampart's Cale Cormaney and Montrose's Aaron Dietrich will look to defend the skies once again this fall.