AURORA | In a stunning start to the new year, Rangeview High School has fired veteran football coach Dave Gonzales.
Gonzales — who had been tied with Cherokee Trail’s Monte Thelen, whom he replaced at Rangeview in 2003, as Aurora’s longest-tenured head football coach — had a 68-54 overall coaching record in 12 seasons, guided the Raiders to 10 Class 5A state playoff appearances and has helped the program win five straight league championships.
Rangeview athletic director Vic Strouse confirmed Gonzales’ dismissal on Monday per an administrative directive.
“We’ve decided to go in a different direction and Coach Gonzales will not be the head football coach next year,” a pained Strouse said. “We won’t be giving any other details, but it’s a philosophical change.
“We fully respect Coach Gonzales and the 12 years he’s put in here, but it was time to move in a different direction.”
Strouse said there was no timetable on hiring a new coach, but that it “won’t be a rush decision,” just as the school took its time in deciding to let go of Gonzales.
Gonzales kept his response minimal, other than to say he was blindsided by the decision, which he was informed of the day before the school’s winter break. He’s also to remain as Rangeview’s boys track coach in the spring.
Rangeview becomes the fourth Aurora school in search of a head football coach, joining Aurora Central — which let go of Taylor Calvert before Thanksgiving — Smoky Hill, which saw athletic director Preston Davis serve as interim head coach this past season, and Vista PEAK, which let Pat Rock go prior to the holiday break.
The changes leave the two current head coaches of Aurora Public Schools programs — Hinkley’s Robert O’Brien and Gateway’s Shane Ward — as the longest tenured coaches in the district with just one season apiece.
The next Rangeview football coach has some huge shoes to fill.
Gonzales has led the Raiders to five consecutive league championships, including winning the South Metro League title in 2014, and hasn’t lost a game league game since Sept. 25, 2009, a span of 36 games. He was selected South Metro League Coach of the Year this past season and his son, sophomore running back Max Gonzales, was tabbed the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in voting by league coaches.
In the past, Gonzales had stressed he’d like to coach until his son graduates from Rangeview as his daughter — all-state cross country runner Rikki Gonzales — did before moving along to the University of Northern Colorado.
In the 2004 season — just one season after taking over for Thelen — Gonzales led Rangeview to the 5A postseason for the first time since 1991 and did it when just 16 teams qualified as opposed to the 32 that currently make it in 5A. He guided the Raiders to 10 total playoff appearances in 12 seasons, including the past nine in a row. The postseason proved difficult, however, as Rangeview won just two of its 11 playoff contests in that span.
Rangeview’s two postseason victories came in 2010 against Boulder and Arvada West during a season in which Gonzales’ team went undefeated behind elite offensive talents in quarterback Jaleel Awini, running back Jonathan Mathews and wide receiver John Tidwell. The Raiders advanced all the way to the 5A quarterfinals before losing to Grandview to end an 11-1 season.
Gonzales has also added some traditions to Aurora prep football, including the annual Hog Wars strength and teamwork competition for city offensive and defensive lineman and introducing The Anvil traveling trophy to the rivalry with Gateway. The Raiders have won the Anvil from the Olys for six straight seasons.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
DAVE GONZALES’ COACHING RECORD AT RANGEVIEW
2014: 7-3 overall (6-0 in South Metro League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2013: 6-3 overall (5-0 in Aurora League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2012: 6-4 overall (5-0 in Aurora League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2011: 7-3 overall (7-0 in East Metro League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2010: 11-1 overall (7-0 in East Metro League) (lost in quarterfinals of Class 5A playoffs); 2009: 6-4 overall (6-1 in Central Metro League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2008: 4-6 overall (4-3 in Central Metro League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2007: 3-7 overall (3-6 in Continental League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2006: 2-8 overall (2-7 in Continental League) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2005: 4-6 overall (2-4 in Continental League – American Conference) (missed Class 5A playoffs); 2004: 7-4 overall (4-2 in Continental League – American Conference) (lost in 1st round of Class 5A playoffs); 2003: 5-5 overall (2-3 in Continental League – American Conference) (missed Class 5A playoffs)