PHOTOS: Fountain-Fort Carson Trojans (28) Doherty Spartans (35)

The Fountain-Fort Carson Trojans (28) host the Doherty Spartans (35) in conference football game Friday November 1, 2019. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

Football is back. Finally. And Friday’s kickoff marks a new chapter for the Fountain-Fort Carson football program, which will begin its first season in Class 4A since 2009, and an opportunity for the Trojans to reach full capacity under veteran leadership.

The first test will be a nonconference contest against Coronado, on Friday in the Gazette Preps Game of the Week.

The Colorado High School Activities Association’s latest enrollment numbers and football alignment moved Fountain-Fort Carson to 4A, following a decade of competition in the state’s largest tier. But Trojan coach Jake Novotny says despite competing in some of the state’s toughest schedules the past four seasons, F-FC will still face challenges in what he describes as the most competitively balanced classification in the state.

“I don’t think (competing in 5A) makes a team better or worse, but it helps us realize who we are quicker as a program, and those are experiences we can look back on,” Novotny said.

Fountain-Fort Carson’s identity stands with its large class of seniors, including 20 that have as many as three years of varsity experience.

But arguably the most celebrated return is that of senior Q Jones, who stunned fans in his varsity debut his sophomore year, but has been stricken by season-ending injuries the past two years.

“When Q went down with his first injury, that was really difficult for us to adjust,” Novotny said. “We put a lot of our eggs in his basket and it was difficult for us as a program and coaching staff. But then Dezmen came out of nowhere.”

After Jones went down with his second injury early last year, then-sophomore Dezmen Oliver stepped in to bear the weight of the Trojans’ ground game, running for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Now, they’re both healthy, playing behind a bigger-stonger-faster returning offensive line, and both ready to lead in what Novotny describes as the most dynamic part of his team.

“Dezmen matured a ton last year and did some great things for us, and having them both on the field is going to be a great advantage,” Novotny said. “I’m excited for Q on a personal level because he is the most personable kids I’ve ever coached, and he has had such a tough break with his injuries then with COVID, he is battling so hard to get noticed, and he is excited to show what he’s got.”

For the Trojans, this season isn’t necessarily about wins and losses, but about the opportunity to play.

“These kids have been given a second chance to have something that was going to be taken away from them,” Novotny said. “It’s cliche, but you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. And in reality, we are not guaranteed these seven games, anything can happen (with COVID and quarantine), so we have just one focus this week and the opportunity on Friday.”

Coronado was 3-7 last year and will look to replace many productive members of its 2019 offense.

COUGARS-TROJANS AT A GLANCE Delivered by Pizza Hut

Game data: Coronado Cougars vs. Fountain-Fort Carson Trojans … Friday at 7 p.m. at Fountain-Fort Carson’s Guy R. Barickman Stadium.

COVID-19 guidelines: “Due to spectator limitations, gate lists will be used. Only those guests whose names are on the official gate list, may be admitted. There is no charge for admission.”

Media: Follow @LindseySquints on Twitter for live updates and check back with GazettePreps.com for a story, photos and more. A livestream will be provided by Fountain-Fort Carson on the football YouTube channel.