Hotchkiss’ Lemon leaving for coaching job at Eaton

Photo by William Woody—Hotchkiss High School head coach Zac Lemon talks with his offensive line during practice Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.

As much as Zac Lemon wanted to stay in Hotchkiss and help the Bulldogs win a state football championship, he will leave at the end of this school year and patrol the sidelines as Eaton High School’s football coach in the fall.

And as much as Hotchkiss didn’t want to say goodbye to Lemon, the Bulldogs landed another accomplished coach to succeed him, former Aspen High School coach Mike Sirko.

Hotchkiss Athletic Director Isaac Snell said Hotchkiss will miss Lemon, not just as a football coach, but as a teacher.

About getting Sirko as Lemon’s replacement, Snell said, “We got lucky. He had just finished up at Aspen (last fall), and when he heard about the opening here, he threw his hat in the ring.”

This will be Sirko’s second stint in Hotchkiss. He took over as head coach in 1979 as the Bulldogs were coming off a four-year stretch of futility, during which the team compiled an 0-32 record.

He turned the team around and led the Bulldogs to the state quarterfinals, losing to eventual state champion Limon. In 1980, Sirko led the team to the state semifinals, where the Bulldogs lost to eventual state champ Hoehne. Sirko went 52-24 in seven years at Aspen, taking over a program that was 6-19 in three seasons before his arrival.

Lemon had a successful seven-year run at Hotchkiss, which was 61-16 under his guidance and a perennial playoff team.

Hotchkiss made three consecutive trips to the Class 1A state semifinals from 2010 to 2012, but the finals eluded the Bulldogs each season. Two of those semifinal losses were by scores of 20-13 and 16-12.

Hotchkiss finished with a 7-3 record last fall and lost in the first round of the 1A playoffs.

Lemon said going to Eaton, which is about 10 miles north of Greeley, is about professional growth for him and his wife, Amy, who will be pursuing a master’s degree. They also will be closer to Amy’s family.

Lemon called the opportunity exciting and appealing. He will teach biology and coach football at Eaton, just as he did at Hotchkiss.

Eaton is in Class 2A for football, and Lemon said the Reds are a contender year-in, year-out in their conference. The Reds are 66-40 over the past 10 football seasons, and in 2012 they finished 10-1, a year after going 9-3. Eaton was 4-4 last season.

The Reds won state football titles in 1993, 1997 and 2000.

The school has a tradition of great athletes, Lemon said, giving the baseball program as an example.

“It seems they win a state title every other year,” he said.

Hotchkiss has great athletes and tradition, too, and Lemon said telling the Bulldogs’ football players that he is leaving “was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.”

Lemon made it a point to express “a special thank you” to the community, the students and the school staff.

“It’s just been a great experience,” he said, “and it was not an easy decision to make. I’m sad to be leaving, but excited for the opportunity.”


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