For the 2012 season, multiple candidates emerged for PrepColorado Coach of the Year. Mike Apodaca of Silver Creek, Phil Bravo of Monarch and Brent Vieselmeyer of Valor all lead teams to state titles, but ultimately Monte Thelen of Cherokee Trail won this year's award for quietly moving his Cougars to the 5A state title game.
Looking back at my weekly rankings, especially preseason, I did not understand how good Cherokee Trail was as a football team. Truth told I did not give them their due until the semifinals of playoffs. Some leeway can be given in that the Cougars did not do anything flashy. Each week Cherokee Trail played sound defense, moved the ball and got better, winning numerous close games, sometimes from behind, in one of Colorado's toughest conferences.
Unless you have done it, it is difficult to explain how to make 16 to 18 year old young men focus on the goal of getting a little better each week. The adolescent male mind has difficulty with long term goals and steady improvement. The importance of consistent growth as an individual and unit is most evident in football, the ultimate team sport. This subtle skill of consistent improvement is what earned Cherokee Trail Head Coach Monte Thelen 2012 PrepColorado Coach of the Year.
Throughout the season the Cougars stayed consistent, never overwhelmed and continue to win ball games. On offensive, Cherokee Trail had a balanced offense that moved the ball around multiple playmakers. On the season the Cougars had four players that rushed for over 450 yards and five players who had double digit catches. On defense, an area where Cherokee Trail shined, the Cougars allowed 11 points a game and never surrendered more than 21 in a contest. The Cougars, in their base 4-3, played sound defense, rallied to the ball and finished tackles. Thelen, quietly, but with confidence, kept his young men focused on team goals, nothing flashy, just consistent.