AURORA | Colorado prep football programs had the option to play fall or spring football this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but lucky coach that he is, Mike Holmes gets both.
Fresh off a fall season as an assistant at Vista Ridge High School in Colorado Springs, Holmes will be on the sidelines in the spring as well as the new head coach at Rangeview, as he has been hired to replace Brandon Alconcel, who stepped down last month.
The 39-year-old Holmes has been a head football coach at the prep level before after leading South Stokes High School in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. His second stint begins just five weeks after he finished up with Vista Ridge.
“Being able to have football twice in a year is fantastic,” Holmes told the Sentinel Tuesday. “I usually coach baseball in the spring, so I’m used to coaching in multiple seasons. I love baseball, but there’s nothing like football.”
On Nov. 13, Holmes wrapped up a 3-2 season with Vista Ridge, which lost one of its games due to COVID-19 quarantine and the inability to find a new opponent. He coordinated special teams, coached the offensive line and worked with the running game for the Wolves, who finished two spots outside of qualifying for the Class 4A state playoffs.
He soon learned of the opening at Rangeview — one of the programs that had opted to play in the spring — after the departure of Alconcel, who stepped down because of new employment in another school district (story). The Raiders went 8-22 in the past three seasons under Alconcel, including a best mark of 4-6 in 2019.
Holmes applied for the job and emerged as the selection of athletic director Shawn Palmer and the others involved in the hiring process. He feels fortunate about the situation he has found at Rangeview.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity; from everything I’ve heard from coaches on the staff, Coach Alconcel did a really good job of getting the program to turn the corner to where they used to be,” Holmes said. “I feel with the staff we have in place and with myself, we can continue to build on what has already established.
“I approach this whole regime change not necessarily as a rebuild mode, but a resurfacing.”
With time running out, Palmer wanted to have a new coach in place before the end of December and was pleased to hire Holmes after a month-long search that generated interest from local candidates as well as some from out of state.
“Coach Holmes has a wealth of coaching and teaching experience and we are excited for him and his family to join the Raider Nation and lead our football program,” Palmer said in announcing the hire.
Four of the five APS programs that will play in the spring have new coaches as Holmes joins DaVaughn Thornton Sr. (Aurora Central), Robb Wetta (Gateway) and TC Newland (Hinkley), with John Sullivan at Vista PEAK the lone holdover coach.
With such a short amount of time to get ready for the new season, Holmes said Rangeview’s assistant coaches will return to help ease the transition and there will just be subtle changes at first with such a short timetable, especially given there is currently a moratorium on workouts due to the pandemic.
“I don’t necessarily believe in excuses, even though this situation will warrant a lot of excuses like ‘we didn’t have this, we didn’t have that,'” Holmes said. “Every single member of the coaching staff that was there is going to stay on and we’ve communicated and we’ll try to blend what I want to do offensively and defensively, then we’ll add more stuff on in the fall for next season.”
Holmes was aware Rangeview is set to return a three-year starting quarterback in Reece Berkey and he feels like the Raiders have a chance to win right away and possibly qualify for the 5A playoffs as one of only 14 teams in the mix.
Alignment for the spring season has Rangeview as part of 5A’s South Division with fellow Aurora Public Schools programs Vista PEAK and Hinkley. The Raiders are scheduled to play the Bison, the Thunderbirds, Denver East, Denver South and the Far Northeast Warriors in league play and Adams City in non-league play.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports