LONGMONT -- Difficult as it was to believe as Austin Apodaca produced one 300-yard, 40 plus-point game after another this season, it really was not that long ago that Apodaca was as nervous and wide-eyed as any other rookie.
On Sept. 4, 2009, Apodaca, then a sophomore, made his debut as the starting quarterback for the Silver Creek Raptors. The club endured a long trip west to take on Rifle and Apodaca, under fire all day from a fierce pass rush, lost a total of 48 yards on eight rushing attempts. Apodaca fared a little better through the air, going 7-for-13 for 124 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
It certainly was a solid performance for a sophomore, yet it fell short of evoking images of shattered records and deep playoff drives. By his own admission, Apodaca simply was "just trying to find my niche."
Little did anyone know, least of all Apodaca, that his niche eventually would leave an indelible mark in the Colorado football record book.
After a season in which Apodaca etched his name on countless career passing lists while leading the Raptors to their first appearance in the state finals, Apodaca has been named the BoCoPreps.com football player of the year.
"I was so young back then as a sophomore, I couldn't have imagined all the things I've been able to do," Apodaca said. "I'll always cherish the brotherhood I've had with these guys since the sixth grade. To get all the way to the championship game with your best friends is something I'm never going to forget. Football is an 11-man game, and I always had plenty of help. We had great receivers and our offensive line always gave me enough time. I never dreamed we'd be able to do all this."
Although Silver Creek fell just short in the Class 3A title game, dropping a 14-7 decision against Windsor, that outcome did not diminish the remarkable run enjoyed by Apodaca.
The Washington State-bound quarterback carved his name on a number of single-season and career charts. This fall, Apodaca became just the third Colorado passer to amass more than 3,500 yards, finishing with the third-best single-season mark in history with 3,849 yards. Apodaca also finished among the all-time single-season leaders with 44 touchdown passes (tied for second), 256 completions (second), and a completion percentage of .703 (tied for fifth).
Apodaca's name is equally prevalent among the state's all-time leaders, finishing his career ranked seventh in completions (517), sixth in completion percentage (.637), seventh in passing yards (7,635), and ninth in touchdown passes (81). Along the way, Apodaca threw only 33 interceptions in more than 800 attempts, an average of one in every 25 attempts.
Apodaca saved perhaps his best performance for his final home game, completing 32 passes -- the sixth-best single-game total in state history -- for 455 yards and seven touchdowns during the Raptors' 55-37 win against Palisade in the semifinals. Apodaca became just the sixth Colorado quarterback to toss seven touchdowns in a single game.
"As a dad, it has been a phenomenal journey," said Apodaca's father and head coach, Mike Apodaca. "I never thought I would coach my kid, it just happened to work out that way. I wouldn't change a single thing that happened, good or bad. It has been fun to be a part of it."
While Apodaca already has joined the Raptors' basketball team and is looking forward to one more season with the school's baseball team, he already is preparing for the next phase of his football journey. Washington State dismissed head coach Paul Wulff in late November and hired former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
Apodaca admits the coaching shakeup was a little stunning, yet he remains eager to work with a coach widely recognized for his prolific passing attacks.
"It wasn't what I was expecting, but you don't just commit to a coach. You commit to a school," Austin Apodaca said. "I love the school. I love the campus. I love the town. None of that has changed and obviously as a QB, I'm looking forward to working with (Leach).
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org