If there’s a Colorado Mount Rushmore High School football coach, Fred Tesone deserves his face set in stone.
Tesone, the longtime Cherry Creek head coach who turned the Bruins into a perennial powerhouse from scratch, died of complications from dementia on Tuesday. He was 90 years old.
What Tesone leaves behind is a rich football legacy built on attention to detail and a forward-thinking approach to training and organized team activities during the offseason.
“He first came here when people were still parking their horses on campus (in 1961),” Cherry Creek athletic director Jason Wilkins said. “He led the program as it developed and Greenwood Village started to become what it is… If you ask someone, he led a tight ship, and he did. in the right way. ”
In 27 seasons at Cherry Creek, Tesone won 272 games with 22 league titles, three state runners-up and Class 4A titles in 1982, 1983 and 1986. It was a race underscored by Tesone’s emphasis on fundamentals and his team’s mastery of the playbook.
“In the freshman football team we only played 12 games, over and over again,” said former CU coach and tight end Jon Embree, who played in Tesone’s first league team. . “In grade two, they would add 10 to 15 more games, so you have the base of the offense and you can run those games in your sleep.
“They did the same sort of thing on both sides of the ball, so by the time the players got to college, we were a well-oiled machine because we had so many representatives. It’s a testament to how he put the whole program together. It was methodical and there was a reason behind everything we did.
Embree noted that Tesone’s bodybuilding and conditioning programs were “way ahead of its time,” and Tesone also had the ability to get every player to buy into their role.
“One particular trait he had was making you feel responsible for the program because when I was playing for him I always felt like I couldn’t let go of the program,” said Mike Griebel, the coach. -Head of Thomas Jefferson who played for Tesone in the mid-1970s. “He brought a sense of having an obligation to the team, respecting the Creek tradition and building it once we got our momentum going. . He had a magical touch.
A former Louisville High and then University of Denver half-star, Tesone married his hometown girlfriend Lois, with whom he had six children. Tesone’s five sons continued to play college football, and his youngest son Ron – who was on the 1982 champion squad with Embree – said his dad “continually tweaked the schedule” to keep raising the bar. every season.
“He worked on it and refined it, until the success continued at this point,” Tesone said.
By the time Tesone retired in 1989, he had prepared the Bruins for dominance. And that’s exactly what they did, as longtime Tesone assistant Mike Woolford led the school to five titles in seven years, from 1990 to 1996. Cherry Creek has since carried the number. trophies to 11 in total after consecutive Class 5A titles in 2019 and 2020.
“When you entered this program with Fred, excellence was expected,” Embree said. “If you were looking for someone to say ‘Hey, good job’, when you won that wasn’t the right place. He set that standard and it never wavered, and it was more than evident after he left. ”
Tesone was also the athletic director of Cherry Creek and hired the most successful baseball coach in CHSAA history, Marc Johnson, to lead the Bruins’ baseball program in 1973.
“I respected him as a coach, but even more as a man, because I saw him as the type of person I would like to be,” Johnson said. “He was very passionate about what he was doing and he had a lot of respect from his players and other coaches in the state.”
There will be a celebration of Tesone’s life on Thursday, July 8 at the Light of the World Catholic Church in Littleton. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations from the Fred Tesone Alumni Foundation, which supports the Cherry Creek football program.
Fred Tesone Bio Box
Born: September 5, 1930 in Louisville, CO
Playoff spots: 23
Titles / appearances of titles: 3/6
Notable awards / distinctions: National High School Coaches Association District 6 Coach of the Year in 1979, 1984 and 1989; Colorado Sports Hall of Fame; CHSAA Hall of Fame; DU Sports Hall of Fame; Colorado Coaching Hall of Fame
Days of play: Half-back for the 1954 DU team that won the Skyline Conference Championship.
Also note: Tesone’s eldest son, Tom, won the Denver Post Gold Helmet Award in 1972 as Cherry Creek quarterback; Tom died of pancreatic cancer on June 8 at the age of 66.