The journey from a fledgling program to a Class 3A powerhouse took six years, but Jason Klatt led the Mead Mavericks to the brink of greatness in 2017.
A program that once had trouble filling out a roster went undefeated in the regular season last year and came within one play of reaching the state semifinals. Sixteen seconds separated the Mavericks from a chance at a possible state title game berth, but now the chasm is much greater.
Mead, ranked No. 1 for most of the 2017 season, is rebuilding again.
"It's going to be an interesting year. We lost 26 seniors, eight of which are in college football," Klatt, Mead's head coach said. "It'll be interesting this year getting younger guys ready to go. This is normal. The cupboard is not empty."
Klatt has seen the empty cupboard, so he should know. He built Mead football from scratch when he took over in 2012 and the Mavericks' roster could almost fit on a beverage napkin.
"When you talk about that, it's night and day," Klatt said. "We had 20 kids and none could bench his body weight. It was crazy. We had 120 kids last year and we were ranked No. 1 most of the year."
That senior-heavy team grew up in the program and showed a lot of talent. Led by running back Nathan Mackey, who rushed for more than 1,600 yards in Mead's 11-1 campaign, the seniors helped put together the most successful season in program history. But now the likes of Mackey, Derek Edwards, Tyler Keys, Evan Hansen, Trace Lindemann, Dom Esters and Ryan Lavanchy have moved on.
Klatt isn't bothered by this. He relishes the chance to teach football and character to the next group of guys. He did it when his first team was 3-7 and has had one losing season since. Mead has been to the playoffs for the past three seasons.
"What is important is to graduate men of character," he said. "The end game is that. Not championships and winning league titles and sending kids to CFB. If you love kids and value kids, you don't need the titles to be successful.
Klatt learned that watching his father, Gary Klatt, become a legend at Pomona High School. When retired players returned to praise their coach, it wasn't for his record but for his life lessons.
"When you see that it shapes your philosophy then you don't worry about score," Jason Klatt said.
So the younger Klatt and his staff will focus on the process. He does have some experience returning, including senior offensive lineman Preston Hall, a three-year starter, and junior Brady Veltien, who is the early candidate to take over for Keys at quarterback. Still, there will be a lot of youth on Mead's 2018 roster.
However the season develops, Klatt won't change the approach he has used since 2012, he just expands the goals.
"In 2012 we had a goal of eight first downs in a game and our kids thought they won the title and we lost 24-3," he said. "My mindset was same at 11-0. We dial back the goal and keep the high standard. We coach them to focus them to coach on small goal."
It may not mean an 11-0 season, but it will result in a successful one.
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