Senior Stacked Sabercats Strive for Success


Senior Pryce Wyatt throwing down a dunk during the Fort Collins City Challenge.

Dylan Heinrich, Sports Writer

The Fossil Ridge boys basketball team prepares to hit the court for the 2022-23 season.

The Sabercats search to build on last year’s success. Between Fossil’s 26-2 record, undefeated conference championship, and second state final appearance in school history, the 2021-22 season was certainly one to remember for the team and 19 year head coach Matt Johannsen.

“I remember coming together as a group,” Johannsen said. “Lifting each other up and getting better every day…then culminating in the state championship game…definitely a memorable season, for sure.”

Fossil enters the season with a lineup of only seniors.

Fossil Ridge lost two seniors from last season’s team, Will Hemme and leading scorer Brock Mishak. The Sabercats are still loaded with experience, returning four starters from last year: Ty Brown, Colin Hayes, Domenic Leone, and Nick Randall. All ten of their varsity members are seniors, an extremely rare dynamic among high school teams. While this gives Fossil a major boost in terms of experience, it also means it will be the last ride for each and every one of the players.

“10 seniors is a lot to have, so it’s definitely a unique group…we’re gonna have to get a lot of stuff done and we’re gonna have to rely on those seniors to make sure that they’re not only preparing themselves but leaving a good legacy and culture in place when they leave,” Johannsen said.

One of the seniors looking to make an impact is guard Ty Brown. Brown, a returning starter, is a highly skilled three point shooter, finishing last year averaging six points per game and shooting 39% from behind the arc. In addition Brown is a tenacious defender, using his quickness and high motor to pester opposing ballhandlers all game.

“You just have to buy in on the defensive end. If you understand how to play defense and that you need to play defense, then it’s all going to come through on the offensive side,” Brown said.

Brown preparing to take a shot during a preseason 3-point contest.

Another key returning starter is 6’ 3” guard Domenic Leone. Leone was an X-factor during the playoffs last year, averaging 14.4 points and 6 rebounds during Fossil’s five postseason matchups. He is making the transition to basketball from football season. Leone racked up over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns as a receiver during Fossil’s most successful year on the gridiron. 

He is one of two seniors making the move from football to basketball, alongside fellow wideout Mac Busteed.

Even though he was swamped with football duties, this multi sport athlete never let basketball escape his mind.

“In football season I got as many shots up as I could…now it’s all about basketball. I have everyday to work for it and I’m really just looking forward to what we can do this season,” Leone said.

Leone was the primary organizer of this year’s Fort Collins City Challenge.

The most impactful returning senior is “big man” Nick Randall. Randall earned himself a spot on the 5A Colorado Second Team putting up 16.8 points along with 8.4 rebounds. The forward is the only returning member from either of the 5A state teams, as the only junior a part of the prestigious group. He is the top returning scorer for the Sabercats, and looking to take up a key leadership role on the 2022-23 team.

“I’ve learned a lot from Brock [Mishak] last year…I think the leadership role is a great fit for me. Last season was so much fun…it was a great opportunity, and now we’ve been there before, so we’re gonna try to do it again,” Randall said.

Randall was the leading rebounder for the Sabercats last season.

Fossil heads into the new season with plenty of excitement, including being ranked as the best team in Colorado heading into the 2022-23 season by MaxPreps. Despite the praise, the Sabercats still know the importance of not letting the success rush to their heads. 

“It doesn’t put any points on the board for us,” Johannsen said. “We have to go out and do what we do. We have to go and play great defense, we have to take care of the basketball, we have to share the basketball, we still have to do all of those things.”

“We always have that target on our backs,” Randall said. “We just try to push it to the side, we have so many important games, and for everyone that plays us it’s a big game for them…We have to put that to the side, go play our ball and do what we can to win.”

Fossil Ridge will play their first games of the season at home this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, as a part of the annual Gojo Tip Off Classic.

Brown, Matthew Boldt, and Mac Busteed posing for a photo.