Chris Kelly, a 2008 graduate of Aurora Central High School, has been hired as the new head football coach at his alma mater after several stints as an assistant coach. The 30-year-old Kelly follows DaVaughn Thornton Sr., who was just hired at Vista PEAK. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | Alum and longtime coaching fixture Chris Kelly is the new head football coach at Aurora Central and he couldn’t be happier about it.

Kelly is uniquely qualified for the job, as he was a multi-sport athlete at the school until his graduation in 2008 and returned after college to be involved in coaching in a number of different roles and ingrain himself in the community.

In the spring, the 30-year-old Kelly served as the defensive coordinator on the staff of DaVaughn Thornton Sr., who got the job at Vista PEAK (story), and now he now gets a chance to put his own personal stamp on a program that is near to his heart.

“I’m super excited, ready to get rolling and grateful for this opportunity,” Kelly told the Sentinel. “I’m ready to take on the challenges and see what I can do with it.”

Kelly is the fourth new head coach in Aurora for the upcoming fall season, joining Thornton Sr., Tom Doherty at Grandview (story) and Earnest Collins Jr. (story) at Gateway.

His hire was an absolute no-brainer for the Aurora Central athletic director Ryan Widemon and the school’s administration.

“I couldn’t be more excited for Chris and his family, AC is a family affair for them,” Widemon said. “Chris was always our future plan and getting him prepared for the role was always the goal. It was a little bit expedited on our end…but no time like now.”

Another thing that made the choice easy was that Kelly provides a consistency that the program hasn’t had in quite some time. The Trojans have had a lot of turnover at the position for various reasons in the last 10 years, as Kelly is the sixth coach to take the helm in that span.

As a former athlete, Kelly knows how a consistent voice resonates with players and gives them confidence in the program. He’s been a bridge between coaches in the past and now will be the strongest voice the players will hear.

“When you look across the state and city, the programs that are very successful have been consistent,” Kelly said. “Coach (John) Sullivan at Vista PEAK and Coach (Shawn) Palmer at Rangeview have been there for so long and I look at their consistency competing against them as a player and coaching against them. They’ve been consistent and that’s what the kids deserve.

“They deserve somebody they can rely on and trust. It’s what the kids deserve and what the school needs.”

Kelly is also eager to pick up on the momentum from the spring season, in which the Trojans qualified for the Season C Class 4A playoffs, but were unable to play due to exposure to an opponent with a positive COVID-19 test.

Because of the exposure, Aurora Central had to forfeit its first round game to Thomas Jefferson — the eventual state champion — and finished 3-4, but made strides that didn’t necessary show up in the win-loss column, especially while dealing with the extra difficulties presented by the pandemic.

“It was a great year even though our record was 3-4 and we have a lot of momentum that we can keep rolling through the offseason,” Kelly said. “DaVaughn developed a great culture and not much will change as far as the kids are used to. We’re going to keep things consistent with the kids so they can be comfortable going through the offseason.”

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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