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Head Football Coach Leaving Conifer

Coach Jonathan Shipley is moving to Michigan at the end of the semester, marking the end of his time coaching at Conifer
Cole Christianson
Head football coach Jonathan Shipley gives a halftime pep talk to the Varsity team. They were playing away against Wheat Ridge, their sixth game of the 2022-2023 season. “Just an amazing group of young men and women up here at Conifer High School and I’ve been very fortunate to coach and teach some amazing people and keep those friendships and relationships alive even after they graduate,” Shipley said.

For eight years, Conifer High School’s students and athletes have been taught and mentored by football coach and teacher Jonathan Shipley. However, in December of 2023, the school received news that they would be losing Shipley as a result of his family’s decision to move to Michigan. 

“I have a little daughter now, which is the best gift ever. But it’s tough to raise her without family; no cousins, aunts, uncles, cousins close by. It was a decision based for our family, I wish we could take Conifer and just move it to Michigan with us, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out that easy,” Shipley said. 

Shipley teaches weight-training classes in the building during the school day, but his main position at Conifer is as head football. Shipley has been coaching at Conifer since 2015, leading them through ups and downs. He coached the Lobos through seasons with only three total wins but also through seasons where the Lobos won nine total games.  

“I remember a lot of moments with Shipley because I have a relationship with him that I don’t have with anyone else. He’s really pushed me to be the best version of myself,” junior football player Mason Murphy said. 

This season, the team finished with a 60% win rate after they won six games and lost four. Shipley also helped lead Conifer to victory at the annual Mountain Bowl, beating the Cougars 55 – 0.

Shipley watches the ongoing football game while talking to senior football player Jackson Kosar. The Lobos were playing Holy Family, their fifth game of the 2023-2024 season. “He can hold those kids accountable because of the relationship he has developed with them, that’s an intangible piece that is really difficult to replace. We’re gonna miss that,” Horner said. (Isabella Hess)

“I think he’s a really good coach,” Athletic Director Brad Horner said. “But he’s a much better person and mentor to those kids. Those are people that are hard to replace. You can find people who know football, they can come in and run a program, but to find a person who can do that and be that person to a number of people on a team is hard.”

Aside from the winning record for the 2023-2024 season, Shipley was a mentor for players as well as a coach. 

“What matters is when you have a kid who is on the team that walks in the door, they just had a really crappy experience at home or something is going on with them personally. It could be family, it could be relationships, but when they are struggling with real-life stuff, they have that person they can go to. That’s who Ship has been to a lot of these guys. They come through the door and they know that this is the place they can find some support,” Horner said.

Shipley will be leaving Conifer at the end of the semester and moving to Michigan. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to coach some amazing players and I will always value those relationships and friendships I’ve been able to build with these kids, even when I’m gone I’ll try to keep in touch with them as best I can,” Shipley said. 

Without Shipley as the football coach of the Lobos next year, Horner worked to find a coach to replace him. 

“We’re hoping to align the new football coach with a teaching position here in the building, so we are putting a priority on somebody who would be in the building as opposed to a community coach,” Horner said. 

The process to find a new coach for the 2024-2025 season was lengthy, starting with a seven-person interview panel consisting of a few administrators, three football parents, a Conifer coach, and Horner. The potential prospect also talked to four of Conifer’s returning football players so the players could get to know the interviewee. Through the process, Conifer found a new head football coach for next season, which was announced on February 15th: Matt Steinfeldt, who previously coached football at Bear Creek. 

“When Shipley told me at first, it was a lot to think about. Obviously, I’m not happy about it and I’m gonna miss him a lot, but he’s doing what’s best for him and I’m glad he can move on with his life,” Murphy said. 

Shipley hugs junior Mason Murphy during halftime in the 2022-2023 season game against Wheat Ridge. The Varsity Lobos beat the Farmers 35-0. “I hope I was able to impact as many students as I can in a positive way as they go into the real world,” Shipley said. (Cole Christianson)

Shipley plans to continue coaching and teaching at his new home in Michigan and currently has a potential job lined up.

“Everything from the admin to our students to our community up here in Conifer has a very close, tight-knit vibe that makes it special, and where I’m gonna end up reminds me a lot of Conifer. So I’m hoping I can still find that tight-knit family vibe, even at a bigger school,” Shipley said. 

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