AURORA | DaVaughn Thornton Sr. has a coaching future ahead in football, but his time at Vista PEAK Prep has come to an end.

The 33-year-old stepped down from the job he held for the past three seasons as he informed members of his coaching staff and players last week of his decision.

Thornton Sr. finished with a 13-18 overall record and one Class 4A state playoff appearance with the Bison after he arrived before the 2021 season to fill the job vacated by John Sullivan.

“I look forward to the next chapter in my life, but I will always cherish the memories and the growth we achieved together at Vista PEAK,” Thornton Sr. wrote in a letter to the community in which he described the experience as “an incredible journey.”

Thornton Sr. departs shortly after the conclusion of a 2023 season in which the Bison finished with a 4-6 mark that included two losses by eight-point margins. Vista PEAK Prep ended the campaign on a high note with two wins, a 67-0 victory over Hinkley Oct. 20 and a 35-28 defeat of the Far Northeast Warriors in a snowstorm Oct. 28.

He walked away proud of the numerous all-conference honors earned by Vista PEAK Prep during his time, as well as a double-digit number of players who earned athletic or academic scholarships to college.

“Leaving young people is never easy, but after three seasons, I felt it as ideal as possible,” Thornton Sr. continued. “I am deeply thankful for Principal (Jason) Maclin, Athletic Director David Benedict, District Athletic Director Casey Powell, my loving parents, the East Aurora community, and, most importantly, my dedicated student-athletes.

“They have made this journey unforgettable.”

Thornton Sr. told the Sentinel he plans to coach in the future at some point.

Thornton Sr. is a former multi-sport star at Denver East High School who went on to a Division I career as a tight end at the University of Colorado (playing also at Colorado State-Pueblo). He also was the interim head coach at Overland after Steve Sewell stepped down and served as the head coach at Aurora Central for the spring 2020 season when Aurora Public Schools team played due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Trojans qualified for the postseason, but were unable to play when they were exposed to a team with a player that had tested positive for COVID-19.

Thornton Sr. arrived at Vista PEAK Prep before the 2021 season, taking the job vacated by Sullivan, who has since moved on to a post with the Colorado High School Activities Association. He was the third coach to hold the job following Pat Rock (who went 12-18 from 2012-14) and Sullivan, who finished 38-21 in six seasons and led the Bison to two state playoff appearances and the program’s only postseason victory in the spring of 2020.

The Bison made the 4A state playoffs in Thornton Sr.’s first season — a 7-4 campaign — and lost in the opening round to Pueblo West.

“The Vista PEAK community wishes him well in whatever comes next for him,” Benedict said. “I respect and support Coach Thornton and his decision, and wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

Benedict has posted the Vista PEAK Prep job on the district’s website and it is the only known opening among Aurora programs at this point.

The Bison graduate their leading rusher (Marcel Evans Jr.), receiver (Kyron Chiku-Martinez), tackler (Armondo Johnson) and sack leader (Nathan Hunholz), but expect to return a solid young core. Sophomore Canaan Barthlow took over at quarterback for the last five games and threw nine touchdowns in those contests.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at Twitter/X: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


2023: 4-6 overall (1-3 in 4A/5A Southeast Metro)

2022: 2-8 overall (0-4 in 4A/5A Southeast Metro)

2021: 7-4 overall (4-1 in 4A Metro 2)

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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