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Coach Jake Novotny of Fountain-Fort Carson High School watches from the sidelines during a game against Regis Jesuit at Guy R. Barickman Stadium on Oct. 18, 2018, in Fountain.

Despite facing unprecedented circumstances through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fountain-Fort Carson football team entered the 2020 season firing on all cylinders. They were led by an experienced and motivated senior class and coach Jake Novotny, who ultimately guided his team to the program’s first state semifinal appearance since 2003.

Novotny is the 2020 Gazette Preps Fall Football Coach of the Year.

Q: How many years have you been coaching, any level?

JN: “This is year 12, I coached basketball a little when I first started, but it has been primarily football, high school and college. I coached at CSU-Pueblo from 2012 to the spring of 2016.”

Q: What inspired you to become a coach?

JN: “Two things inspired me to become a coach. One, my dad was our coach growing up for basketball, baseball and a lot of different things, and he was a great mentor and I looked up to him a lot growing up. And two, all of the men I looked up to in my life who guided me and developed me outside my family were all coaches.”

Q: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your 12 years as a coach?

JN: “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you are so much more than a coach. You are a counselor, a father figure, a ride. You’re so much to kids and when there are so many different things pulling kids in different directions, in a lot of ways you’re a beacon of stability. X’s and O’s are great, and the game is great, but at the end of the day your job as a coach is to create relationships that are going to last a lifetime and result in better character people, and that’s what I’ve based my whole philosophy around. Everyone wants to win championships, but building lasting relationships and impacting lives to be better is my ultimate goal.”

Q: What was the most memorable moment from the 2020 season?

JN: “There’s a lot of them, but I think the most memorable moment for me was when we got to kick off our first game because of all the things surrounding this year. Just having a season, getting back to school, so for me, when we kicked off the first game this year it was pretty special, and I think it meant a little bit more for everyone involved.”

Q: What is a piece of advice for underclassmen coming through your program?

JN: “I would say enjoy the process and the journey. I look at our seniors this year who were faced with the possibility of not having a senior season. You never know when the game is going to be taken away from you, so enjoy the process.

I want guys who are out there 350 days a year, lifting weights, doing stuff in the classroom. It’s easy to enjoy those 15 Friday nights, but I want someone who works every other day. This game ends for everyone at some point, and you want to enjoy the things that go along with it. You remember that stuff more than anything else, so enjoy the process and be patient, your time will come.”

Q: What is your coaching cliché?

JN: “I think our kids would say we talk about family in our program. Family means you love and care about your teammates and the people around you, and when you love somebody, you make sacrifices. We fall back on that all the time, and every team does in some way, shape or form, but for us in Fountain, that means so many things. We have military families and some of our kids are on their second or third high school, so for us, being a family is the most important thing for us when we are playing.”