There are big seasons in sports and then there is what is going on at Cherokee Trail this fall.
The Cougars have fully blossomed as an athletic powerhouse as every single sport has been outstanding for the first five weeks of the new athletic season.
Between the four largest sports — football, volleyball, softball and boys soccer — Cherokee Trail is a remarkable 34-4-1 through games of Sept. 25. It’s created a tidal wave of momentum that has become palpable at every event.
“The Cougar pride is massive this year,” senior Dylan Reimer said after he scored the game-winning goal to lift the boys soccer team to a 5-4 win at Smoky Hill Sept. 25.
“Everybody’s been doing well at CT and it’s been a great atmosphere to be there and have all the support from the school…We all go to each other’s games to support each other, because that’s how athletes should be. You should all be a team.”
During the fall, football is widely considered to set the tone for athletic programs in high school and Cherokee Trail has that going in a big way.
The Cougars are one of six undefeated Aurora teams through five weeks of the new season and they’ve been among the most impressive as the Joe Johnson era gains steam.
It has been a resurgence for a program that has hovered at or below the .500 mark going all the way back to the 2013 season. The Cougars won 10 games that year under former coach Monte Thelen, but they didn’t start 5-0 as they are now. The last time Cherokee Trail opened 5-0, it made it to the 5A state championship game where it lost to Christian McCaffrey and Valor Christian.
Cherokee Trail features one of only a handful of 1,000-yard passers in 5A in senior Grant Ciccarone, while senior running back Malik Sparrow racked up five touchdowns in the Cougars’ most recent victory, a 49-28 win over Lakewood.
Receiving threats such as Sean Roberts and Jeordon Holmes and Torrey Sanders out of the backfield all have Cherokee Trail on pace to score its most points in the last five seasons. The offense has thrived under new offensive coordinator Justin Jajczyk, formerly of Eaglecrest.
The arrival of Metro League play — which includes Cherry Creek, Grandview and Eaglecrest, all of which also went unbeaten in the regular season — will be the true test of course. First up for the Cougars is a Sept. 28 contest against 4-1 Arapahoe.
The Cherokee Trail softball team (17-1) is just two seasons removed from winning the 5A state championship and has the look for a title contender yet again.
Coach Caley Mitchell’s Cougars suffered their only loss in their first 18 games on a walk-off to Smoky Hill at the Don McCall Tournament hosted by Douglas County, but avenged that loss with a decisive 11-1 win at Smoky Hill Sept. 20.
Cherokee Trail faces a huge test in Eaglecrest on Sept. 27 in a game that could set it up to win the Centennial League championship. The Raptors won last season’s matchup 15-5.
Senior Delanie Cox — one of the holdovers from the championship-winning team — is hitting a robust .617 with seven home runs to lead a potent Cougars lineup.
The Cherokee Trail volleyball team has been absent from the 5A state tournament since it won the state championship in 2016, but coach Terry Miller believes he has a “Ferrari” of a team under his direction this season with a variety of three-year varsity players and college-bound athletes such as Savannah Spitzer (Colorado Mesa), Trinity Nguyen (Lindenwood)
The Cougars’ two losses came to Chaparral — a 13-1 team rated No. 1 in 5A for most of the season — as well as 10-1 Lewis-Palmer, the defending 4A state champions. Cherokee Trail took the Wolverines to four sets and the Rangers to five.
On the soccer pitch, the senior-heavy Cougars are 6-1-1 after their dramatic win at Smoky Hill and have already matched last season’s win total.
With seven games left, plus some potentially in the postseason, coach Tori Hardy’s team could challenge the program’s high win mark of 12 set back in the 4A days in 2005.
The rest of Cherokee Trail’s sports have held serve.
The girls cross country team is currently ranked No. 2 in 5A by coaches and showed itself worthy of that lofty spot with its performance at the Dave Sanders Invitational, where the Cougars finished within just 17 points of powerhouse and top-ranked Mountain Vista.
The boys golf team has three qualifiers for the Oct. 1-2 5A state tournament, as junior Beam Boonta, sophomore Mason Bernard and freshman Andrew Jang give the Cougars enough players to record a team score for the first time since 2014 and only the second time in the program’s history.
In boys tennis, Cherokee Trail beat rival Grandview 4-3 Sept. 25 to hold onto second place in the Centennial League standings going into its last match Sept. 26 against league-leading Arapahoe. The Cougars beat Cherry Creek’s Varsity 2 team, which should give them their highest-ever regional seeding.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports