Ten years have passed since the Monarch High football team last won a gold trophy.
But the Coyotes really haven't gone anywhere. In many respects, they've been Colorado's model of consistency at the Class 4A level.
Of the 16 teams that reached the 4A playoffs when Monarch won the crown in 2002, only two others -- Ralston Valley and ThunderRidge -- have made the postseason every year since like the Coyotes. Both of them have since moved up to 5A where they were each semifinalists this year.
The only constant in the 4A bracket since 2002, though, has been Monarch. And what a run of excellence it's been.
The Coyotes (12-1) will play for their second title on Saturday when they face Denver South (12-1) at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
In the 10 years since their 14-0 march to the 2002 title, the Coyotes have gone 107-15. Only twice have they won fewer than 10 games in a season, with the two "down years" being an 8-3 campaign in 2008 and a 9-2 mark in 2010. Only three times were they ousted in the first round of the playoffs. And four times now they've reached the semifinals or better, including a runner-up finish in 2007 and this year's trip to the title game.
That 2002 title -- in just the fifth year of MHS' existence -- has had plenty to do with the program's prowess since, Coyotes coach Phil Bravo said this week.
Victories came quickly for the program as the Coyotes went 5-5, 8-3, 9-3 and 7-4 in the first four years of the school. But the championship in 2002 -- the first team title in school history in any sport -- set the tone.
"It just gave an expectation to our school and our community that that type of game, that type of success is within our grasp," Bravo said.
But good vibes can only go so far. Plenty of other factors have played into the Coyotes' tradition.
First and foremost, Bravo said, are the kids who walk the halls at Monarch. The coach for years has been quick to tout the academic prowess of his football team. Twelve starters on this year's squad boast grade point averages of 4.0 or better.
"Our football team is a byproduct of this institution," Bravo said. "We get good, solid academic kids who are challenged in the classroom, and there is huge carryover to the field.
"There's a lot of carryover and a lot of work ethic involved and a lot of preparation that these kids take upon themselves in terms of studying for the game."
Solid coaching has been a constant for the Coyotes as well. Bravo's success predates MHS, as he won 63 games in seven years with Centaurus and had a winning run in California before taking over at Monarch.
But not only did Bravo start the program in 1998. Three of his assistants from the 2002 title team -- Ted Kawulok, Aaron Paddock and Phil Grace -- also remain.
Their philosophy has been a simple one: Be fundamentally sound and repetitive on offense and defense.
Crack wise all you want about Monarch's double-wing offense and running the same rushing plays over and over. But the formula has proven effective to the tune of the Coyotes being in a class by themselves in 4A football.
Perhaps the only thing missing for the Coyotes the last 10 years has been another championship trophy.
But the guess here is that it's only a matter of when, not if, Monarch will win another football crown. And this group of Coyotes -- one that's rebounded from an early loss and proven resilient throughout the playoffs -- is looking poised to make its next ride home on the Boulder Turnpike a golden one.
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