The 5A Fossil Ridge Sabercats, led by third-year head coach Jeff Fulton, hadn't made the football postseason since 2015, so there was a lot riding on their matchup against league rival Legacy this past Friday.
The game was an instant classic, as the teams traded punches all night. As time expired in the fourth quarter, Fossil Ridge's Domenic Leone hauled in a 10-yard pass from Tyler Kubat to get Fossil Ridge to within one. Bryce Olson converted the crucial PAT to send the game to overtime.
In OT, Kubat connected with Mac Busteed on a nine-yard pass to give the Sabercats the thrilling victory, the league title, and the coveted postseason berth.
For Fulton, who was the head man at Northridge from 2000-2018 before taking over Fossil Ridge in 2019, it was the culmination of a 40-plus coaching career. For the Sabercats and the southern Fort Collins community, it was the return to glory for a program that has been building towards this moment since last making the playoff. Fulton is the Broncos High School Coach of the Week.
The Broncos Coach of the Week is selected in partnership with CHSAA.
Jeff Fulton bio
Years as Fossil Ridge head coach (record): Third Year (10-16)
Overall head coaching record: 86-126
Coaching resume: Northridge head coach 2000-2018, Fossil Ridge head coach 2019-present
Quotes from Jeff Fulton
Why do you coach?
Fulton: I coach because I was coached. I was coached at three levels. My high school coaches came first. I still remember their names. My mentor coaches, as I started my career, are at the second level and they revealed to me what to do and what not to do. Thirdly, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, my players "allow" me to coach them. We pride ourselves on "growing young men". Being at Fossil Ridge is a Godsend.
Why do you coach the way that you coach?
Fulton: I coach the way that I do because I believe in building relationships. No matter where a student-athlete comes from, no matter what their background is, student-athletes will always remember how you made them feel. Relationship building is the single most important thing -- ever. Therefore, it is OK to laugh at practice or in the classroom. The stress of high competition can be eased and still be part of a program's culture even though "feeling tone" is part of that foundation. Life is difficult and tedious, football should counterbalance that.
What do you think it's like to be coached by you?
Fulton: I learned a long time ago that student-athletes "PLAY" football. Therefore, everyday should be based on "PLAYING". We try to keep a singular focus to avoid negative situations. I try to connect to every student-athlete every day.
What has been your favorite memory from being the HC at Fossil Ridge so far?
Fulton: Beating Legacy last Friday in overtime to win the Front Range Conference championship is the pinnacle of the athletic side of things. However, being entrusted by the Fossil Ridge administration and community with leading the football program is a great memory. My first year at Fossil was with a collection of wonderful seniors who trusted me and my staff. I will always be thankful.
What was it like winning that OT game over Legacy to clinch the league title and a playoff spot?
Fulton: It was very emotional. Hugs everywhere. OT games are rare. We came back from 14 down and scored with no time left on the clock to send it to overtime. The point after touchdown was scary. Our student-athletes were so thrilled. The players "played" harder longer and it paid off.
Describe what it has taken for you and your staff to get this team from where it was when you took over the program to where it is today?
Fulton: Let me state unequivocally that the football staff at Fossil is a collection of UNSELFISH PROFESSIONALS. The Coaches are "student-centered." Our Coaches understand the big picture. From day one we had to build trust with the SaberCats. Along the way, we were able to build relationships. Our coordinators are relentless. Our director of sports performance is stellar. Our position coaches and sub-varsity coaches are truly committed individuals, who put students first. When we started at Fossil Ridge, we just worked. We started from scratch, which is normal. But much of the credit must go to that initial group of SaberCat seniors who accepted our vision and helped in building our foundation.
What does it mean to you, the team, and the community to clinch this playoff berth?
Fulton: It is thrilling and humbling. For me personally, it is validation of my 40-year career. For the team, it is a success that is special. They have all worked hard. The community at Fossil is second to none. Our boosters are supportive. Our parents are special and I admire them. Southern Ft. Collins is electric. Many years have passed from the time Fossil Ridge opened. We want to represent all of the previous graduates. Now our job is to represent our school and community in the 5A playoffs!
Story Written By: Dan Whitaker/CHSAANow.com
Photo Credit: Lance Wendt/wendt5280.com