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Football: Monarch honoring 10th anniversary of school’s 1st state title

John Ray starred as a linebacker and fullback during Monarch's 2002 run to a Class 4A state title.
Jonathan Castner
John Ray starred as a linebacker and fullback during Monarch’s 2002 run to a Class 4A state title.

The Monarch football team’s 2002 state championship sure doesn’t feel like a decade-old memory to coach Phil Bravo.

The Coyotes, after all, still have a player suiting up — Geoff Clary — who watched his older brother Matt help capture the first team title in any sport at MHS. And Bravo’s senses have kept the details of that day fresh in his mind.

“I can still see the faces (of the players) and remember the feeling heading down South Boulder Road into the championship game,” Bravo said Wednesday.

MHS will honor that 2002 squad in a halftime ceremony during Saturday’s 10 a.m. game at Warrior Stadium. Fittingly, the Coyotes are hosting Golden, the team they outlasted 42-35 in a Class 4A championship game thriller.

On Friday, players from the 2002 squad will speak to the current Coyotes, who are 4-1, ranked fourth in 4A and carry their own title dreams, having lost only to No. 1 Wheat Ridge this season.

The 2002 group was one that overcame the adversity of losing top running back Bill Hill for six games, only to see him come back and score four touchdowns in the title game.

As usual, the Coyote backfield was loaded, with Nick Weber and fullback/linebacker John Ray — the 4A player of the year — also starring. Five players rushed for 500 yards or more each on the season.

The team was one that went 14-0 but had some bumps along the way, including a Week 10 nail-biting victory over a scrappy Westminster squad. That’s not to mention a wild finish in a 21-17 semifinal victory over ThunderRidge that included an apparent game-winning TD pass for the Grizzlies being called back and then a final Hail Mary pass knocked down by the Coyotes on the next and final play.

In the standing room-only title game on the Coyotes’ home turf, it was Monarch’s usual rushing attack against the golden arm of Golden quarterback Mark Melancon, now a relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. A 21-0 lead early turned into a 28-all ball game entering the fourth quarter before Monarch finally put it away and raised the gold trophy.

The championship came in just the fifth year of Monarch High’s existence. The seniors were members of just the second freshman class ever to enter the school. And the group set the tone for a program that hasn’t entered a season since without league or state title aspirations.

“It’s great,” Bravo said of the reunion. “They earned it. They battled through a tough year that year. They were some good boys. They’re men now. They really paved the way for the high expectations that this program has maintained for many years.”

Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshLindenstein

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