When head coach Jeremy Lanter took over Niwot’s football program, he began a mission to build great young men and to get students involved. Now in year three, he is doing just that. More students are coming out to play football and there is a buzz around the program.
In Lanter’s mind, a successful season isn’t necessarily determined by wins and losses. These student-athletes aren’t playing for multi-million dollar contracts and Lanter’s perspective is often forgotten at the high school level.
“I tell our kids all the time, it’s not about the results, it’s about the person we become in the process,” said Lanter. “...If we judged everything based on a record, I don’t think that guys like Thomas Edison would’ve ever changed the world because he certainly had more losses than he had wins.”
Coming off a 3-7 season, the Cougars are trending upwards with a renewed sense of purpose. Their belief is growing as a squad while using the lessons of last year to develop into better football players, and people.
“One of the biggest things I feel like our kids learned is that they can be successful, that they can have confidence that what they’re doing and the work they’re putting in has a direct connection to the results that they want,” said Lanter. “A lot of the buy-in and the hard work came because they got to experience what success was.”
The success that Lanter speaks of came from an impressive season at the junior varsity level. According to Lanter, the lower level team compiled a 6-4 record, which was the first winning season in 12 years. A talented young group of Cougars is a great sign of future success and brings hope to the program.
“That was a great group of kids that we had, and we still have a lot of expectations of them doing well at the varsity level,” Lanter said. “Hopefully, the added confidence helps.”
At the varsity level, the talent starts with junior quarterback Ayden Bartko. The third-year starter possesses a great arm and has shown improvement reading his progressions according to Lanter. Complementing Bartko will be senior running back Liam Flanagan who ran for 702 yards and 5 touchdowns last year.
“We had a great summer with our offense,” Lanter said. “We’ve looked more explosive than we have in the two years since I’ve been here. ...Our kids are growing, the offense is becoming more familiar to them, and they’re figuring out how to make plays.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Stan Matsunaka will have plenty of weapons to put points on the board. Seniors Jovani Lopez and Erick Fernandez will anchor the offensive line and the receiving corps will be highlighted by senior Jarrett Noterman and juniors Isaac Fisk and Julian Bell.
On the defensive side of the ball the Cougars are resetting their line with four of their five starters graduating. Senior linebacker Julian Molina is expected to lead the group, but will need a few less experienced starters to step up. Of those include junior noseguard Jesus Amaya, who racked up 24 solo tackles last season. Also expect junior safety Jordan Byers to make an impact.
On the sidelines, Lanter is fortunate to have a total of 14 coaches on his staff, including his younger and older brother. It’s a family affair at Niwot and the Lanters hope to spread their wisdom. Jeremy will be aided by his younger brother Link Lanter, and the oldest of the three, Cory Lanter. Also notable, Link comes to Niwot this year from Roosevelt High School, where he was nominated for assistant coach of the year. The two will be splitting defensive coordinator duties.
“We basically had to start over with our defensive group,” Lanter said. “That’s been interesting to watch, and having Link on staff has added a whole different dimension to what the line is doing. They look as good as they have since I’ve been here.”
The expectations are set and the Cougars are ready to get started. A solid group of student-athletes will be representing Niwot in hopes of building their character and winning a few games along the way.
“The thing that gets me excited is we have, and every coach that we have come on says this, we just have really wonderful kids, win or lose,” said Lanter. “I don’t put all my stock in winning and losing football games, but building good men and we have a bunch of just really really great young men.”
The Cougars will kick off their season Friday, August 30th at 7 p.m. at Everly Montgomery Field, taking on George Washington High School.