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Smooth transitions

CARBONDALE – Three head coaches in two seasons normally point to a program in distress. Not with Roaring Fork High football.The shift from Tory Jensen to Matt Hauptly to this year’s new head coach Mike Brinson, formerly an assistant, has been seamless for the Rams. And, throughout the changes Roaring Fork has continued to compile winning records and three straight Class 2A Western Slope Conference titles.Longevity among the nine-member coaching staff is one factor in the program’s success. But, it’s a combination of elements, Brinson said, that puts a winning team out on the field.”I think we all respect each other enough that we don’t say ‘it’s got to be my way.’ We’re all resigned to the fact we all have our strengths and let’s use those strengths together,” he said.”That’s the only reason I threw my name in the hat to step up to the head job, because I knew these guys,” Brinson continued. “Some of these guys here have been with the program longer. Tory Jensen was the one who got me involved in the first place. That’s really the foundation. That’s why I feel comfortable with it – and the kids.”Former head coach Tory Jensen is among eight assistants on board, which allows the coaching staff to give the players more individual attention. It’s a luxury, veteran assistant coach Neil Jensen said, that most small-school programs lack.”It definitely helps,” he said. “We have enough coaches to split up into groups by position before we go to team drills. Schools with a small staff have to skip a lot of phases because they can’t cover those areas. Our practices can be fleet and full because of having enough coaches.”An overlooked, but important factor is the camaraderie the coaches have among each other.”There’s the aspect that this is my group of buddies,” defensive assistant coach Jeff Kelley said. “For two hours in the evenings every night and on game nights, I’m with my friends. That’s what I would miss. “My wife tells me I like football more than her, than my family. It’s hard (for us) to let (football) go and that’s what makes a good staff. You get that between eight to 10 coaches and you have a community.”Outside of the football community, the coaching staff mirrors the valley in lifestyle.Two assistants – Ryan Gillespie and Brad Shirey teach at the high school. Brinson and the others have outside jobs.Longtime familiarity with the athletes and some of the coaches helps as well.”We have a nucleus of coaches who have known the kids since they’ve been little,” Kelly said. “Someone like myself, coming here from California, I didn’t know small-town football. We have that in our staff. It’s great. “(I didn’t) know them when they were in fifth grade, like these other guys. It makes you know when you can push their buttons and not push their buttons to get the most out of the kids. I think that’s led to a lot of our success.”The Rams athletic success, assistant T.J. Joiner said, also makes it easier for the coaches to teach. “These kids are winners,” he said. “They know how to win and they love to play. It makes it so much easier to coach when you have a group of winners out there.”Winning’s nice. But, that’s not the ultimate aim for the coaching staff Joiner said.”We have a lot of athletes now at the collegiate level. To see them go on and to see them further their lives and take those lessons they’ve learned here and hopefully point them into the right direction, that makes you feel better than anything. “I suppose winning a few more gold footballs would be nice. But ultimately, I think we’ve won the game of life with the kids.”


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