Story by Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com
Photo by Matt Daniels/MattDanPhoto.com
Vista PEAK is, quite literally, in the midst of the best football season in school history. The Bison, which started varsity play in 2012, are 5-0 for the first time and are coming off a big 48-27 win over then-No. 3 Dakota Ridge last week — a win that opened some eyes around the state and emphatically announced that this team was for real. That's not to say there's any celebrating going on yet. Vista PEAK, now ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, has another big game this week, against No. 10 Hinkley, an Aurora Public School rival. But before then, there's another first: Vista PEAK coach John Sullivan has been named the Broncos High School Coach of the Week. It is the first time the Bison have been honored as part of the program. The Broncos High School Coach of the Week is selected in partnership with the Broncos and CHSCA.
John Sullivan bio
Years as head coach: 5 (28-17)
Years at Vista Peak: 5 (28-17, 5-0 this season)
Previous stops: Rangeview assistant (1999-2012), Vista PEAK assistant (2013-14), Vista PEAK head coach (2015-present).
Ryan Casey: Why did you want to become a coach?
John Sullivan: It was just kind of in my blood. My dad was one of my high school coaches, and I actually got into teaching so I could coach. At the time, when I first got into it, it was just because I loved the sport. But the longer I was in it, your priorities and your values kind of shift a little bit. Just seeing the kids when they finish playing football, and when they come back to see you, it just puts a really warm place in my heart, makes me feel good. I can see that I had some sort of impact on these kids, whether it be on the football field, or in life, helping these kids grow up, and being there for them. It's just something that has really been important for me.
Casey: What kind of coach do you think you are?
Sullivan: I like to challenge the kids, off the field and on the field. I put a high premium on character, and put a high premium on work ethic. But there's also a place where myself and our coaching staff is not afraid to tell the kids we love them, and we value them and believe in them.
There's kind of both ends of it, where we want to push the kids but also let them know that we're here for them, and it's unconditional, and we'll do whatever we can to help them be successful in life.
Casey: You guys are 5-0. What has the first part of the season been like?
Sullivan: As with pretty much every program in the state, we have kids that work hard during the summer, in the weight room and in 7-on-7. We had a pretty good idea, based on returners from last year, that we could possibly be a good team this year. There's a lot that goes into being a good team outside of football — chemistry, and the involvement of the parents in a positive way. And we had all those things. We started the season with a lightning storm down at Mesa Ridge, and came back to school at 1 o'clock in the morning. We had some adversity right away, and our kids have really stepped up. I give them a ton of credit. They've absorbed what we've thrown at them. This is also year two of us kind of changing our offensive and defensive philosophy, and putting a greater premium on the character development stuff. And we're really seeing the fruits of our labor with that.
Casey: Last week, you beat Dakota Ridge 48-27. I think people thought you were a good team, but I think that win opened a few eyes. Do you feel that way, too?
Sullivan: I think so. I hope so. As a newer school, you're always struggling for an identity and trying to get noticed. We had a pretty good idea of what we have here, and then going into the game, our kids knew this was an opportunity for people outside of Aurora to try to take notice.
We hope that happened, and we're on to the next week. We have a big game against Hinkley, who is also undefeated.
Casey: I was going to say, that's pretty cool for Aurora Public Schools to have this game on Friday.
Sullivan: It is. It's awesome. You know, Rangeview has had some great success in basketball, but other than that, there hasn't been a whole lot of team sports in APS that have garnered a lot of attention, so it is really cool that two teams can go in and play a meaningful game in the middle of the year that has playoff implications. They're a good team, and we are really looking forward to this game, as well.