LONGMONT — A pair of consecutive three-win seasons have begun to blur the memory of the Silver Creek football team's three straight Class 3A state title appearances from 2011-13.
Even as Silver Creek's 2012 state championship shrinks into the past, the current Raptors players have not forgotten the program's greatness. Four years ago, the Raptors were bigger, faster and more talented than every team they faced.
The Raptors pushed around Colorado's 3A teams for years. Now that the team is moving back into the classification it dominated, the Raptors offensive line is taking the lead in guiding Silver Creek back to being one of 3A's better squads.
"In those years we had a bunch of D-I guys up front and then they all graduated," senior left tackle Zane Bishop said. "We were stuck with a half-junior, half-sophomore line. Now those sophomores are all seniors and it's looking pretty bright for us. I think our offensive line is going to be outstanding."
The Raptors went 3-7 in each of the past two seasons, their first playing at the 4A level. In the latest re-classification of Colorado prep football teams, the Raptors were moved back down the 3A Northern League for the 2016 season.
Whatever classification they play in, the Raptors know they'll need to regain the offensive balance they experienced for years if they want to return to their previous level of success. After featuring a quarterback who passed for at least 2,000 yards from 2010-14, the passing game disappeared last season.
"Last year, our quarterbacks weren't very experienced and our line wasn't very experienced in what we were doing," Bishop said. "But now we have a couple years under our belts and we know how to play with each other. I think our offense is going to get back to being great.
"We have outstanding athletes at receiver and our quarterback is probably the smartest guy I've ever met, to be honest. But he's not a running quarterback, that's not his game. He's outstanding at throwing the ball. If we can protect him, we can be great."
Now a senior, pocket passer Dylan Ordway struggled with minimal protection as a junior and passed for just 741 yards while giving up the starting spot to fleet-footed senior Anthony Kasper. The Raptors, however, feel like they can keep Ordway on his feet long enough in 2016 to utilize their many receiving weapons and realize the balanced offense they need to back up a solid defense.
The Raptors season starts with a Zero Week game against Somerset Academy Silver Palms at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando on Thursday.
"We've got to come ready to play," Ordway said. "Without that extra week, we need to be extra sharp. That team is going to be really athletic and tough so we're not treating it like a vacation. It's a business trip."
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
COACH: Mike Apodaca (14th year, 81-62 record).
LAST YEAR: 3-7 overall, 2-3 Class 4A Northern League.
RETURNING STARTERS: Anthony Allman (Sr., TE, 6-1, 220); Jeremy Bartley (Sr., OL, 6-0, 200); Zane Bishop (Sr., OL, 6-4, 200); Cade Call (Sr., OL, 6-2, 200); Tyler Gibbs (Sr., DE, 6-3, 200); Khari Harrison (Sr., WR, 6-2, 180); Brock Knechtel (Sr., LB, 6-0, 200); Marcus Lopez (Sr., LB, 5-11, 155); Dylan Ordway (Sr., QB, 6-0, 200); George Ramirez (Sr., DB, 5-9, 175); Trevor Riters (Jr., LB, 6-3, 190); Jake Williams (Jr., DL, 6-3, 265).
OTHERS TO WATCH: TJ Blazon (Jr., WR, 5-9, 155); Sam Dirkes (So., DL, 6-2, 260); Nick Eaton (So., RB, 6-0, 170); Sam Elting (Sr., DL, 5-7, 170); Brandon Harper (Jr., LB, 5-10, 175); Andreik Knechtel (Jr., RB, 5-11, 185); Patrick Miller (So., TE, 6-3, 200); Carl Olsen (Sr., DE, 6-1, 190); Jack Ranglos (So., OL, 6-4, 190); Joe Roth (Jr., WR, 6-2, 155); Will Schrader (Jr., OL, 6-1, 235).
COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Allman, Bishop, Gibbs, Harrison, Knechtel, Ramirez.
STRENGTHS: The Raptors' large senior class gives the team a good mix of size, speed and talent on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense.
WEAKNESSES: Having to break in plenty of players on both sides of the ball will create a bit of a learning curve for the Raptors.
Aug. 25 — Somerset Academy Silver Palms, at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — Mountain View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — at Frederick, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — Erie, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 — at Northridge*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — Fort Morgan*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — at Centaurus*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — Longmont*, 7 p.m.
Nov. 5 — at Thompson Valley*, 1 p.m.
*Asterisk denotes 3A Northern League opponents.