DENVER - Coach Todd Miller has constructed a precise, efficient, violent football machine on the edge of Colorado Springs. His machine, the Pine Creek Eagles football program, rampaged past Montrose, 49-14, in Saturday's 4A state final.
Miller could create another one of these efficient football machines elsewhere. Remember, Gary Barnett departed Air Academy three decades ago for a long and winding college coaching ride that ended at Colorado. Miller could craft a winner at the college level.
He's not going anywhere.
"I'm Pine Creek," Miller said before turning to his son, Mason, a second-grade student.
Other men might have ambitions to climb the coaching ladder. Miller's ambition is to coach his son at Pine Creek.
"I want to see this guy through," Miller said, patting Mason on the shoulder. "So it's going to be a long time. My goal is to be a high school coach and to coach my son in this, the greatest game."
Pine Creek dominated this game even more than the score indicates, and Miller could have delivered the same kind of 66-10 beatdown he endured at the unmerciful hands of Valor Christian in the 2011 4A state final.
He chose a more kindly approach.
"As a coach and a man, you want to treat people as you want to be treated," he said. "You honor the game by honoring your opponent, and that's what we tried to do."
Miller could easily have been celebrating his third state title. He led the state's best public school in 2010 and 2011, but had to suffer, along with the rest of us, with Valor's suspicious domination of our state's high school football playoffs.
Valor moved to 5A last season, opening room at the top for Miller and Pine Creek. It's no surprise Miller's Eagles rule 4A.
No surprise, that is, to anyone except perhaps Miller. When the Eagles were stumbling around with one win and two losses early in the season, Miller was worried. Yes, he had forced his players to compete against rugged 5A opponents, but he wondered about his team's identity.
"I would have said no way," Miller said of a title march.
His players squashed all of his skepticism. His players thrilled and surprised a master high school coach.
"These kids wanted it," Miller said. "These kids did it. People talk about the coaches, but it's about a group of kids who believe."
Miller's football program clashes with Pine Creek's image. When Colorado Springs residents consider the prosperous neighborhood on our city's northern tip, they think of sprawling homes and golf courses and money. This is not where anyone expects to find a collection of swaggering tough guys.
Fullback Austin Schultz looked plenty tough on Saturday, shedding Montrose tacklers on his way to 178 yards and three touchdowns. He ran behind a determined, physical offensive line. It was a classic Pine Creek performance. Nothing fancy. Nothing deceptive.
Schultz talked accurately about his neighborhood.
"I would say it's a very comfortable area," Schultz said, "but the coaches know how to get you out of your comfort level real quick. They beat fitness into you and they beat toughness into us, and we know there's not a team in the state that's more tough than us."
Don't expect any of this toughness to fade. Miller says he's not going anywhere. He's not interested in coaching in the college ranks.
Pine Creek is his home, which means Pine Creek will be the home of more 4A football titles.