In the seemingly continual prep football coaching exchange between Colorado and Arizona, Danny Filleman is glad he ended up in the Rocky Mountains.
Former Regis Jesuit head coach Mark Nolan returned from whence he came in Arizona after six seasons, while Filleman arrived from that state after a successful run at Liberty High School in Peoria.
In his 19th year of coaching, Filleman inherits a program that lost just two games last season — the same as his Liberty team, which lost in the state championship game last year — and feels fortunate to coach in a place that reminds him of where grew up in mountainous Flagstaff, Ariz.
“The school is awesome, the administration is very supportive and pretty much all of the coaches from last season agreed to come back, and they’ve been great all summer,” Filleman said on Aug. 1 at a football media day hosted by The Denver Post.
“The kids are hard workers, they are smart kids and they really want to be involved in the program,” he added. “I haven’t been around much this summer because of the move, but they’ve been great to step up and keep it all going.”
In the rare and massive turnover in the Aurora prep football coaching ranks with five new hires — including Aurora Central (Travis Peeples, story), Rangeview (Justin Hoffman), Smoky Hill (John Trahan, story) and Vista PEAK (John Sullivan, story) — Filleman is the only one coming directly from out of state.
Filleman and his family — which includes a wife who is an assistant principal in Highlands Ranch and three boys, ages 8, 6 and 3 — have missed much of the summer work as they facilitated the move and lived in a hotel until just recently moving into a house.
While that might typically slow the development of a team, the fact that the vast majority of assistant coaches from last season return to ease the transition.
At first, Filleman is still working on the basics.
“Right now, I’m still learning names,” he said.
One of the names Filleman learned right away was Michael Pavlakovich, a senior who is slated to take over the starting role at quarterback after three-year starter Matt Houghtaling graduated.
Filleman — who said his forte is working with quarterbacks — has had some quality players under center recently at Liberty in Tyler Rogers, who is the starting quarterback at New Mexico State, and uber-athletic Tyler Wyatt, who threw for 2,390 yards and 23 touchdowns.
In Pavlakovich, he opens with a quarterback who has played running back and safety and attempted just 22 passes last season, though he appeared under center in 11 games.
Pavlakovich was excited for his chance as a senior as he’d mastered the old system, but he’s even more excited in Filleman’s new system that will allow him to frequently get out of the pocket with rollouts or read options.
He’s also been impressed with Filleman’s handling of the team.
“He’s really honest to make sure we’re working hard and having players hold players accountable,” Pavlakovich said. “He puts a lot on the players, which I think is good because that is how teams can be great, if the players can make each other accountable.”
The Raiders must revamp an offensive line that sent two players to the Division I ranks in Tim Lynott (Colorado) and Jack Maly (Penn), but they return two lynchpins of last season’s attack in seniors Alec Barnes and Jack Stoll.
Barnes, a workhorse running back who accounted for more than 1,800 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns last season, is healthy after he suffered a leg injury that kept him out until the very end of the lacrosse season in the fall.
Stoll committed to the University of Nebraska over the summer and should get a chance to catch more balls than he did last year in a hybrid role that asked him to do a lot of blocking. He caught 19 passes for 176 yards and four scores a year ago.
From Filleman all the way down, the Raiders are counting the days until they line up against nemesis Cherry Creek in the season opener on Sept. 5 on the Bruins’ home field.
“I can’t wait for the season; obviously having a new coach we are in a transition period,” Stoll said. “I’m excited to have him here full time now. We just can’t wait for the season to start and just be playing football.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel