AURORA | The Cherokee Trail football program turns the page from somebody with decades of head coaching experience to one who will do it for the first time, but Justin Jajczyk is plenty qualified for his new post leading the Cougars.
The school announced the hiring of Jajczyk, an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under former coach Joe Johnson — who stepped down after the 2021 season — via social media Friday afternoon.
Jajcyzk has been overwhelmed by the positive response of the Cherokee Trail community, which he has been a part of since coming over four years ago to join Johnson’s staff.
“It has been such a humbling day, I’m so excited,” Jajczyk told the Sentinel. “It was never a lifelong dream of mine to be a head coach, but the notion of being a servant leader to young men has been a fire that started burning inside of me. I put my name out there a couple of times and been offered some positions, but the circumstances weren’t right. Four years ago, I had the opportunity to come over to CT and I’m lucky and fortunate to be where I am. I count my lucky stars every day.
“I am truly blessed to be surrounded by great people, so I’m sharing this with all of them,” he added. “This is not about me, it’s about we. I know there has been a lot at play to make this happen and I have some big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to do it.”
Jajczyk is a graduate of Eaglecrest, where he spent two seasons as an assistant coach on the staff of Mike Schmitt — who just got hired to return to the Raptors (story) — and experienced a run to the Class 5A state championship game during that time.
The 40-year-old has spent the past four seasons on the staff of Johnson and helped transform a group of young, talented players that made their mark as freshmen transform into one of Colorado’s most potent offenses in the past season.
“We are extremely excited for Coach Jajczyk,” Cherokee Trail athletic director Steve Carpenter told the Sentinel. “He will no doubt work hard to continue the perennial success of Cougar football.”
In the final season under Johnson, Cherokee Trail finished 7-5 overall and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs, where it lost to Ralston Valley. For the season, Jajczyk’s offense piled up 348 points in 12 games (29 per contest) and the Cougars’ senior quarterback Logan Brook led 5A in both passing (3,226 yards) and touchdowns (36), while senior wide receiver Jack Pierce led the classification with 1,190 receiving yards.
Brook and Pierce both earned All-Centennial League first team honors and Brook was co-offensive player of the year in the league (full All-Centennial League teams, here). Both will graduate along with second team all-league lineman Travis Gray (who will sign with the University of Colorado next week) and Ryan Kawashima and second team defensive back Evan Harrell.
“This was the first year I wasn’t able to tell everybody that we were young,” Jajczyk said. “No disrespect to anybody I was with previously, but this group was just special. These guys were freshmen my first year and they really bought into this system that we’ve been running. To think this was Logan’s only year as a starting quarterback and he put up video game numbers. …and with everything all these guys did, this was a reflection of them.”
Despite the losses to graduation, the future still looks bright as wide receiver Noah Greer, linebacker Kadin Porter and defensive back Kalib Davis, all second team all-league selections, are expected to return and a group of freshmen who had a tremendous first season will get the chance to make an impact next year.
Jajczyk is eager to assemble his staff, but it will certainly include his dad, Dan, who he has been able to coach with for the past handful of years and likely several former players he has been able to coach with in recent years.
“I know I’ll have some tough decisions to make,” he said.
Jajczyk said he enjoyed the experience of going through the hiring process, including his final interview with principal Jean Incitti — whose first teacher hire in her new job was Jajczyk — and Carpenter.
“It was a such a special moment, to be able to have it all come full circle,” Jajczyk said.
Jajczyk will have a different kind of coaching to do in the spring, as he is also the girls golf coach at Cherokee Trail.
Jajczyk’s hire comes shortly after Eaglecrest announced that Schmitt would return to take that open job, leaving Rangeview with the last known opening for a head coach among local programs.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports