LONGMONT — It's hard for any team to win while not playing its best, especially in the postseason.
But if a team is good enough and doesn't allow its struggles to cause a downward spiral, it's possible to eke out a victory. The Silver Creek football team proved that on Saturday.
Playing a home game at Everly-Montgomery Field with an irregular 11 a.m. start, the fifth-seeded Raptors (11-0) were not on their game with 12th-seeded Durango (7-4) looking to capitalize in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. But in the end, the Raptors made just enough plays to win 27-19 and avoid the upset.
"In the first half, we were kind of slow," senior defensive end Tyler Gibbs said. "But in the second half, we re-gathered and played better. It was just a mindset thing. When we realized that this could be our last game together, we just kept playing our hearts out."
Thanks to some strong special teams play, a 48-yard run from Andreik Knechtel and an interception returned 52 yards for a score by Gibbs, the Raptors led 17-12 to start the second quarter despite allowing 150 rushing yards and only gaining two first downs in the first. The Raptors lost the lead for a short time in the second quarter but put together an 11-play drive in the final three minutes that ended in a Coltan Grabau field goal and a 20-19 halftime lead.
While the Raptors offense struggled for much of the game, it did not turn the ball over against a Demons defense that forced 33 turnovers during the regular season. It also began to find its way once wideout Khari Harrison, who caught seven passes for 111 yards including a 10-yard touchdown with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter, caught fire.
"We didn't really step up on offense as much as we needed to in the first half," Harrison said. "At halftime, we talked about everything they were doing and we just adjusted. That's what put us over the top."
Considering the undefeated Raptors won 10 regular-season games by an average margin of victory of 23 points, Saturday's game wasn't their smoothest. Most importantly for the Raptors, who won just three games last season, they are moving on to the next round.
"The biggest difference this year is just senior leadership," head coach Mike Apodaca said. "We played pretty young last year. We only had eight seniors and a really tough schedule. Our 20 seniors this year believe in each other and their coaches and they came together against Durango, who is as good a team as we've seen this season. Now that they've got that first taste of the playoffs, they can just go play football."
The Raptors will face No. 4 Lewis-Palmer in the state quarterfinals next week. Lewis-Palmer defeated 13th-seeded Longmont 28-23 in the first round on Friday.
Silver Creek 27, Durango 19
At Everly-Montgomery FieldDurango 12 7 0 0 — 19 Silver Creek 17 3 0 7 — 27
Durango — Dawson Marcum 16 run (kick missed). Silver Creek — Coltan Grabau 22 field goal. Durango — Marcum 62 run (run short). Silver Creek — Andreik Knechtel 48 run (Grabau kick). Silver Creek — Tyler Gibbs 52 interception return (Grabau kick).
Durango — Marcum 8 run (Riggs Bardin kick). Silver Creek — Grabau 20 field goal.
Silver Creek — Khari Harrison 10 pass from Dylan Ordway (Grabau kick).
RUSHING — Durango: Dawson Marcum 23-157, Weston Simmons 5-45, Travis Contersch 5-28, Peyton Woolverton 4-25. Silver Creek: Andreik Knechtel 16-132, George Ramirez 9-6, Collin Black 1-4, Tanner Hartman 1-(-5), Dylan Ordway 1-(-11).
PASSING — Durango: Peyton Woolverton 4-19-1-70. Silver Creek: Dylan Ordway 17-31-0-206.
RECEIVING — Durango: Jacob Bourdon 2-22, Weston Simmons 2-17, Jordan Shefferd 1-14, Alex Hise 1-13, Max Hyson 1-4. Silver Creek: Khari Harrison 7-111, TJ Blazon 4-52, Joseph Roth-Bogrett 4-31, George Ramirez 2-12.