It is, Jake Novotny said, “going well and a lot better than last year, that’s for sure.”
He’s not kidding. In May 2016, Novotny took over the Fountain-Fort Carson program, arguably one of the most-unique in Colorado. “It’s the closest thing to a Texas high school in the state other than some of the private schools,” he said.
Novotny was also attempting to replace a local legend, 25-year man Mitch Johnson, whose no-nonsense, compassionate approach helped keep the military-based Trojans relevant before he was unceremoniously ousted.
In addition, the first-year head coach, who was coming over from CSU-Pueblo as an assistant, was trying to run the FFC varsity and junior varsity with just four coaches, six over all levels of the program.
Novotny remained undaunted, “as it was an opportunity to be a head coach, which has always been a goal of mine.” In truth, he added, “there are a couple of places in the state that if they opened up, you know it might be a good place to be.”
Fountain-Fort Carson qualifies. It’s on a very loyal military base and has outstanding facilities, including a fabulous fieldhouse and Guy Barickman Stadium, which probably is as good as any in the state. The town of Fountain kind of shuts down for home games. And the ever-changing enrollment comes with talent as well as a transient touch that keeps it interesting.
Plus, Novotny’s staff now numbers 16 and the Trojans (4-2) already have won more games than the past season, when they were 3-8 and somehow made the state playoffs (they fell in the first round to Mullen).
To date in 2017, the Trojans have rallied from a 1-2 start by winning three straight games, including over Doherty, which had set a torrid scoring pace early in the season, and Poudre, another program enjoying resurgence. Indeed, Novotny admits his team was beaten up a bit in a loss to Pomona, but which team — other than perhaps Valor Christian — hasn’t?
Quarterback Eric Donnell, running back Gavin Green, inside linebackers Jarren Sly and Josua Maika, and safeties Erik Rolle and Ahmed Bernard have been at the front of FFC’s efforts.
Novotny has exchanged messages with Johnson and the John F. Kennedy High graduate who also coached at Heritage under Mike Griebel is eager to see if his program, the farthest big-school group in the southern area, can become a serious challenger.
“We’ve made some big strides on both sides of the ball,” he said.
Others have, too, and many of them are involved in significant matchups in Week 7. Along with others, they are marked below for your viewing pleasure:
Best bets
Mullen (3-3) vs. Columbine (5-1), Thursday, 7 p.m., Jefferson County Stadium
Whenever these two programs meet, Colorado has shown interest, whether during the regular season or playoffs. … It’s a Mt. Cameron matchup. … Mustangs, who also have lost to Valor Christian and Pomona, are fresh from a 55-41 slugfest against Mountain Range. … Senior RB Alonzo Moon left the game with a leg injury, although sophomore Damien Cearns, a transfer, saw his first action and turned in 122 yards rushing with two TDs, one receiving. …  QB Dom DePizzol has 15 TD passes, 11 interceptions. … Mullen won last year’s meeting, a good one, 28-27 in OT. … Columbine was, well, Columbine again last week, rushing 55 times in 56 snaps for 291 yards in a solid 35-14 decision of previously undefeated Fairview. … Seven Rebels had a rush, and were topped by Conner Snow’s 135 yards. … Junior Logan Dearmont has rushed for 312 yards, passed for 373 and had a hand in 15 TDs.
ThunderRidge (2-4) vs. Fairview (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Recht Field
Grizzlies have dropped their past two outings and one of their problems has been easily identifiable — only a half-dozen teams have scored fewer than their 88 points. They have scored only 17 points over their previous 12 quarters. … It’s a Mt. Cameron matchup. … Junior Spencer Lambert has 757 of the team’s 845 rushing yards as well as seven of ThunderRidge’s eight rushing TDs. … The Knights couldn’t deal with Columbine’s rushing attack in last week’s 35-14 setback and managed only 24 of their own, topped by Mariano Kemp’s 25. … Sophomore Aidan Atkinson has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,680 yards, 14 TDs and only two interceptions… The Knights won last year’s meeting 35-21.
Mountain Range (3-3) vs. Northglenn (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Five Star Stadium
A meeting in the Mt. Cameron of north-metro teams that are enjoying much-needed turn-arounds. … The Mustangs traded punches last week with Mullen and looked good during a lot of it before falling 55-41. … Coming into the season, Mountain Range had been 2-28 over the past three seasons. … QB Evan Brodnik and RB Bryce Levinson have scored or had hands in 23 TDs from scrimmage. … Since 2004, the Norse are 51-88 and get this — 25-42 at home, 25-43 on the road. … Andrew Martel (289 yards) and Caleb Leialoha (232) lead Northglenn rushing. … Junior J.J. Gomez has 20 solo tackles. … Leialoha has contributed 4.0 sacks.
Valor Christian (6-0) vs. Lakewood (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Jeffco Stadium
Valor’s sixth consecutive Mt. Lincoln victory was last week’s 44-7 whipping of Legend. … Of 58 snaps from scrimmage, the two-time defending state champion Eagles piled up 23 first downs. … University of Colorado commit Blake Stenstrom was a very efficient 14-of-18 for 168 yards, two TDs and one interception. … Joshia Davis rushed for two TDs. … Nine Eagles caught a pass, headed by Ryan Thibault’s five for 70 yards and two TDs. … Tigers are coming off their first loss, 35-28 to Highlands Ranch. … Senior Ezekiel Sundberg leads Lakewood in passing (730 yards) and rushing (432). … Senior Rex Desso has 20 receptions for 433 yards and five TDs, all tops on the team.
Ralston Valley (3-3) vs. Arvada West (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., NAAC
Hot and cold, up and down for the Mustangs, who lost their first three games and won their past three. Two of the losses were to regular powers Columbine and Pomona, and one of the victories was over 4A kingpin Pine Creek. … It’s a Mt. Wilson matchup as well as one with feeling — traditional Arvada West used to own northwest Jefferson County before Ralston Valley opened in 2000. … Since dropping its opener to Lakewood, A-West has won five straight games. … Junior Tony Cass has rushed for 857 yards, a 7.3 average per attempt and 10 TDs. … Another junior, Johnny Krutsch, is 89-for144 passing for 983 yards, 11 TDs and six interceptions.
Also keep an eye on …
Chaparral (4-2) vs. Mountain Vista (3-3), Thursday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
A Mt. Evans matchup that used to be a regular meeting in the previous format … Wolverines have won three straight games; Golden Eagles trying to shake their lose-one, win-one pattern.
Far Northeast Warriors (4-2) vs. Horizon (4-2), Thursday, 7 p.m. Five Star Stadium
Credit coach Tony Lindsay — FNE already has as many victories as it has had in all but two of its past 11 seasons; Hawks hope to repeat last season’s 55-14 Mt. Elbert whipping.
Eaglecrest (6-0) vs. Rangeview (1-5), Friday, 7 p.m., Aurora Public Schools Stadium
A meeting of Aurora-area teams in the Mt. Wilson — the visiting Raptors, who have won 16 regular-season games in succession, at the Raiders, who sit last in 5A points permitted (279).
Fountain-Fort Carson (4-2) vs. Highlands Ranch (5-1), Friday, 7 p.m., Shea Stadium
Visiting Trojans are two games above .500, yet have been outscored by a combined 146-124; Falcons handed Lakewood its first loss last week, winning 35-28.
Prairie View (0-6) vs. Fossil Ridge (0-6), Friday, 7 p.m., French Field
Sure, we know these guys are obviously struggling and have been outscored by a whopping 486-69, but the good news is one of the two winless teams among big schools is going to break into the victory column in a Mt. Evans matchup.
Rock Canyon (4-2) vs. Cherokee Trail (2-4), Friday, 7 p.m., Legacy Stadium
Visiting Jaguars were smacked down hard last week by Pomona, a 62-21 blowout in a Mt. Evans opener; Cougars have dropped their past three games while totaling only 27 points.
Legend (3-3) vs. Poudre (4-2), Saturday, 11 a.m., French Field
The Titans surely remember last week’s 44-7 pasting by heavyweight Valor Christian, but need to forget it; the Impalas have their own memories to move past, notably dropping their past two games.