Six years ago, Monte Gutowski took on the challenges of starting a football team from scratch at Palmer Ridge.
As the recently hired football coach at Manitou Springs, his next challenge will be to further elevate the Mustangs, whose undefeated run in 2013 ended with a 13-7 loss to Platte Valley in the 2A state semifinals.
Manitou athletic director John McGee said Gutowski accepted the offer, which also includes a teaching position in the physical education department, late Friday.
"He has a great reputation in the coaching world," McGee said. "We wanted someone in the building, teaching and coaching, and he's just a quality person. He fit all the pieces that we were looking for, and we feel fortunate to have him as part of our staff. He brings a lot to the table."
Gutowski coached Palmer Ridge for the school's first four seasons and went 22-21, leading the Bears from the growing pains of infancy to the 3A playoffs in just their third year and first with a varsity schedule.
The Bears followed that in 2011 by going 7-4, still the Bears' most successful season. Palmer Ridge moved up to 4A before the 2012 season.
Gutowski spent the past two seasons in Bethune, serving as the school's athletic director at the 1A school, 140 miles east of Colorado Springs.
In 2013, Manitou played inspired football, seemingly buoyed by hardships caused by historic flooding brought on by the Waldo Canyon fire the previous summer. The Mustangs enjoyed their best season since winning the state title in 1990, beating powerhouse Florence en route to an undefeated Tri-Peaks League season.
But second-year coach Dan Gieck, a Manitou Springs graduate who also juggled a full-time position in the school district's facilities department, announced his resignation in late January, citing an inability to give his full attention to football.
Gieck succeeded Justin Armour, who coached the squad for two seasons after earlier leading the 1990 squad to state glory.
Now, it's Gutowski's turn.
"We've had success," McGee said. "We wanted the right person who could keep this thing rolling."