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Boulder's Bob Simmons has weathered a trial by fire during his first season as the Panthers' head coach.
Boulder’s Bob Simmons has weathered a trial by fire during his first season as the Panthers’ head coach.

While the Fairview Knights are enjoying a storybook season, their cross-town rivals at Boulder are struggling through a campaign the Panthers would rather not remember.

Even with two games remaining — including the 50th edition of the Fairview-Boulder rivalry Friday night — the story of Bob Simmons’ first season at the helm of the Panthers program will read as a hybrid tale of horror and drama. Already there have been late changes to the coaching staff, a controversial split with the team’s top quarterback, and the sometimes cringe-inducing foibles of an offense that heads into the Fairview tilt having not made a dent in the scoreboard in three weeks.

Simmons knew he was inheriting a challenging rebuilding situation. He never imagined it would be quite this demanding — or that he might alienate a sizeable number of parents before his first season ended.

“One thing about any first year in trying to build a program is trying to get your system taught, and then trying to get your kids to buy into your system both offensively and defensively,” Simmons said. “Unfortunately for us, our offensive system we put in a little bit late. Some of the things we’ve asked our kids to do they’ve done before, but it’s new terminology.

“That process, along with trying to bring a whole change in discipline and assignment football on both sides, it takes time.”

The situation involving junior quarterback Malcolm Patterson has divided supporters of the team and even has dozens of Boulder parents gathering in the coming days to discuss the future of the program.

Patterson appeared in four games last year, throwing four touchdown passes while helping to fill the void when his older brother, starter TJ Patterson, went down with an injury.

Although he was the only experienced quarterback on the roster entering the season, Levi Chandler, who did not play football last year, was named the Week 1 starter. When Chandler struggled in the season opener against George Washington, Patterson came off the bench to throw three TD passes in the second half to rally the Panthers to victory.

Patterson remained the starter until a disconnect with Simmons led to his benching in Week 7 against Arvada West. After Boulder lost that game Simmons told that Chandler was the team’s “best opportunity now.” Patterson’s father, Tim Patterson, told a different story, terming the benching as a suspension stemming from a terse meeting with Simmons earlier in the week.

The elder Patterson subsequently pulled his son from the program.

“The football program at Boulder High is an extremely unhealthy situation both physically and mentally for the young men who are participating,” Tim Patterson said. “I think they’re intimidating them. They’re berating them. And they’re putting them down mentally.”

Simmons declined to comment on the situation with Patterson, but indicated he would be willing to welcome the quarterback back into the program.

It seems Simmons cannot be faulted for attempting to reshape the culture of a program that has not produced a winning season since 2003. Yet the unsettled situation at quarterback on a team with extremely limited depth has not helped, as the Panthers have yet to score a point since Patterson was last under center.

Not that Boulder was lighting up the scoreboard anyway — heading into the daunting challenge against 5A No. 2 Fairview, Boulder has scored just 35 points in six games since the 36-point outburst in the opening win against GW. The struggling offensive can be traced in part to the late addition of offensive coordinator John Roberts during the preseason.

Athletic director Melissa Warfield expressed confidence that Simmons, a former head coach at Oklahoma State and an assistant at CU during the glory years of the late 1980s and early ’90s, remains the right man for the job of turning around the program.

“I never stop learning, but I think I have enough experience — whether it’s the college level or the high school level — to know how to run a program,” Simmons said. “It’s important for us to change and understand there are principals you have in running a program that applies to everyone within the program. That’s the only way we can move forward with the vision of being successful.”

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