LYONS — Brandon Wilkes certainly has nothing negative to say about either of the previous stops he made on the Colorado coaching circuit prior to his return early this summer.
Still, coaching at Cedaredge and North Park were not exactly the destinations the native of the Midwest had in mind when he originally packed his bags and headed for the mountains. Landing in Lyons was much more like it.
Wilkes, whose resume is dotted with teams he morphed from losers into winners, will begin his first season with the Lions in a situation the veteran coach finds both scenic and exciting. Not only has Wilkes brought his family to an enviable destination, but he also has inherited a program that is expected to continue its winning ways at the Class 1A level.
“When I initially set out to be in Colorado, this is what I had in mind,” Wilkes said. “I’m a city guy, and the Front Range is what I always had my eye on. I kind of had to earn my lumps at some other places, and to step into a program that has already been successful is a huge perk of coming here.”
Wilkes replaces John Nichols, who returned Lyons to perennial small-school power status during his 16 years at the helm. The Lions reached the Class 1A semifinals last season and made three appearances in the state championship game during Nichols’ tenure. Nichols resigned in February.
“What I’m excited about is that I believe every time we step on to the field, we’re going to have a chance to win,” Wilkes said. “Some of the other places I’ve been in the past, you couldn’t always say that. That’s exciting to me. If we prepare the right way, both coaches and players, every time we step out there we have a chance of winning.”
Wilkes expressed confidence the Lions will make up for the loss of Jayse Long and Jordan Melani, two players who accounted for 26 touchdowns last season while combining to rush for more than 2,000 yards. Melani, the former quarterback, will be replaced by Logan Watson, who Wilkes believes will provide Lyons with a dangerous two-way threat.
Justin Boldt, a track standout that Wilkes described as “probably the best athlete in the school right now” likely will get the bulk of the carries out of the backfield along with bruising fullback Erik Blair.
“It’s been a little different, but he seems like a very good coach,” Blair said. “He’s going to keep us focused, but he also gives us a lot of freedom.
“You always have expectations you have to live up to. We all know what we’re capable of. We know what we need to do to get where we need to go. We all know what the expectations are, but that’s not a big thing for us because we know what we’re capable of. We’ve changed our offense and changed our defense, but it’s all football. It’s been easy to pick up”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07