The 7-on-7 craze in football has never been hotter, but the guys who bury themselves in the trenches are also getting more opportunities to show off their skills thanks to the Denver Broncos.
The 'hog wars' hosted by area high schools in recent years have given linemen the chance to showcase their talents and toughness against each other, but for the Silver Creek Raptors, winning the second annual Denver Broncos Linemen Challenge last week was a unique treat.
The competition extended over two days — and on the second day Silver Creek was one of two finalists that got to train and work at the Broncos practice facility at Dove Valley. While Silver Creek competes in Class 3A football, there were several 4A and 5A teams taking part, too.
"Any time that a team can get together and accomplish something like that is great, especially that group just because we are trying to find an identity heading into the season," said Silver Creek head coach Mike Apodaca. "It's going to pay off.
"We have a good mix of size and speed on those lines, and I think it just allowed them to excel when it came to that competition. We hope to take advantage of the uniqueness of each kid there and go win some games."
Eleven members of the team got to compete: seniors Karl Olson, Sam Elting, Jeremy Bartley, Ernesto Perez, Cody Patterson and Cade Call; juniors Jacob Williamson and Trevor Riters; and sophomores Sam Derks, Logan Walker and Jack Ranglos.
Some of the events included a relay, an obstacle course, tug-of-war, tire flips, pass rush and one-on-one blocking drills.
"It was a great opportunity for all of us to compete together, become more of a team and see our potential for the season," said Olson, who will be a senior this year. "It was cool to hang out at Dove Valley, play and have a lot of laughs, too.
"This is our 7-on-7, though it is a bit different because we can't go full pads and stuff. But we did a lot of things that will make us better."
Playing at the Broncos facilities was a perk, to be sure, but by virtue of winning the competition the Raptors also get a future payoff in the form of one or two Denver Broncos players making an appearance at a practice once the season gets going.
"Meeting a couple of the Broncos is going to be the best part," Olson added.