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By Jocelyn Rowley

Football Preview: Lanter starts rebuilding process at Niwot


August 30, 2017

It’s hard to describe the past decade of Niwot Football without using the word tumultuous. After two classification changes, three head coaching changes, and an abysmal win-loss record, the program’s successes have been few and far between.

Last spring, longtime Berthoud defensive coordinator Jeremy Lanter was tasked with rehabilitating the Niwot program, a challenge the first year head coach has taken to heart. As the 2017 season looms, Lanter has a roster full of exciting young players and the support of a deeply experienced coaching staff, ready to inaugurate a new era of Niwot Football.

“We’re doing things very, very differently, no doubt about that,” Lanter said of his outlook for 2017. “There’s a lot of excitement in the program right now, and we’re definitely headed in the right direction. Kids are feeling good about what took place over the summer and where things are going.”

When Niwot takes the field for the first time on Friday night, the starting lineup will feature a mix of newcomers and familiar faces, though many of those will be in unexpected positions.

Heading up the offense for the Cougars this year is Noah Peña at quarterback. Though just a sophomore, Peña “worked his butt off to earn the position,” according to Lanter. Peña will be running a modified wing offense, which is predominantly ground-based but has a high potential for passing. Backing him will be Ayden Bartko, a 6’5” freshman with a size-15 shoe and a “big arm.”

Last year’s quarterback Matt Baun will be on the other end of some of those passes, as he makes the transition to wide receiver in his senior year. He will be joined in the receiving corps by fellow seniors Nate Nielsen and Alex Gazdik.

Platooning at running back this year for Niwot are senior Anton Sandoval and sophomore Liam Flanagan. Sandoval, said Lanter, is the team’s power back, who also has some speed. Flanagan, on the other hand, is “shifty” with great footwork and vision on the field.

The backs will be running behind a senior-heavy offensive line that has some size and “worked really, really hard” in the offseason. Anchored by Myles Cardenas and Leonel Marrufo, Lanter said the O-line is “the strongest part of our entire team from a leadership and a physical standpoint.” Another big force on the O-line is junior Owen Johnson, who is new to competitive football but, at 6’5” 280lb, shows “tons and tons of promise.”

Rounding out the 2017 offense is senior kicker James Lerner, who Lanter called “one of our best weapons on the field.”

“He can kick a field goal from 45-yards,” said the coach. “For a high school kid, that’s incredible.” Lanter went on to note that Lerner is attracting both local and national NCAA scouts.

On defense, a matter close the coach’s heart, Lanter and his staff will be running a stacked three-four scheme that has been developed by the coach and his football-minded brothers during their years coaching at area schools. The system features an “attack style front that’s aggressive, but simple enough for the kids.”

The Cougar playmakers on defense include seniors Bradon Golon, Brandon Barton, Lisandro Lara and Trent Tadewald. Tadewald will start at inside linebacker, while Barton is transitioning from cornerback to linebacker and Lara will keep the lineman on task “digging ditches.” Golon, said Lanter, will be a “big force” for Niwot at outside linebacker this year who will “help set the edge.” Doing double-duty as the team’s blocking back, he is also one of the few players to go both way for the Cougars.

Lanter has assembled an impressive staff. Helming the offense for the Cougars this year will be Stan Matsunaka, a former coordinator at Loveland High who helped lead the Indians to the Class 4A state championship game in 2015. Joining them will be Jim DuBois, another longtime Loveland assistant, who has recently coached at Resurrection Christian.

Lanter admitted that his eight-year stint running the defense for Berthoud had dulled his offensive instincts, which is why he hired the former Loveland duo in the first place. Saying he had given them “guiding principles” but not much else, Lanter said he had kept his nose out of all but the biggest offensive decisions.

“I’ve taken a role offensively where I don’t put myself in the mix,” said the coach. “They’re great coaches and sometimes you have to let great coaches do what they do.”

Lanter couldn’t bring himself to let go of defensive control, however. This year, he is serving at the Cougars’ defensive coordinator, though his older brother Cory Lanter is his right hand man.

“Most of the game plans and play calls are run through me,” explained Lanter. “He makes the defense go while I am taking care of being a head coach.” His younger brother, Link Lanter, is the defensive coordinator at Roosevelt.

Niwot is entering its second year in the Longs Peak League, which features the 2015 and 2016 Class 4A state runners-up in Loveland and Broomfield. For now, Lanter and his staff are more concerned with laying the foundations for success than in the Cougars’ overall record this year.

“Developing good kids is probably at the forefront of what we’d like to see,” said Lanter. “We have a huge emphasis on players making good decisions. We want to see our kids be the right kind of players.”


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