You probably didn't see any of the Centaurus football players crossing their fingers that fateful Sunday this past November when the Colorado Class 3A playoff bracket was released.
At 7-3 and coming off a regular-season ending win against Thomas Jefferson, the Warriors were confident they had done enough to be one of the 16 teams to make it. Only they weren't on the list when that bracket was revealed.
"Getting seven wins, working that hard and having it not pay off, it hurts," senior running back Anthony Losasso said of CHS not having the wild-card points to qualify in 2015. "But we realized we just have to keep up the momentum through the entire season and just do our best to make the playoffs and more."
Like Losasso said, the punch to the gut subsided relatively quickly. Head coach Bob Carskie would not have it any other way, and now the Warriors are back on the gridiron looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Coaches talk all the time of changing the culture of a team like Centaurus that had a string of sub-.500 records in recent years. Under Carskie, it certainly has shifted.
The numbers are stronger, the playbook is expanding and the general feeling is that the opportunity to contribute is there.
"We came out last year and made a huge improvement in wins. With coach Carskie (and the staff), they've created an offense where not just one guy is getting the ball every play and it gives us an advantage," said senior John Dickson, a tight end/defensive end who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. "We might not be the biggest team, but the aggressiveness, the commitment, the talent and the skill, the practicing, that's what matters. That's how we feel."
"It just seems like these days a lot more people are all in and a lot more people care," Losasso said. "Kids come out and know they are going to get the ball, so they're working harder in those positions."
Last year's rushing numbers would indicate as much. Whether by design or not, there are six returning players with experience toting the football, led by Losasso (135 carries, 547 yards). Elijah Silver, Damian Aguilar and Mac Post.
While Aguilar may be used on the edges a lot more this year, the Warriors are trying to get deeper in their skill positions and so far it's looking like Centaurus will be balanced between the run and pass.
Taking the reigns at quarterback will be Shaquille Ebadi, whom Carskie said can do a lot if not all the things Ryan Cotter did for the squad last season.
Defensively, Post returns to lead a savvy group of linebackers. As a sophomore, Post registered more than 100 tackles and also got in on five quarterback sacks. Jeff Debouvier registered six sacks at defensive end last year, and he will also be back manning that position.
"We want to be known as the anchors of the defense," Post said of the linebackers. "We want to be out there and want to be dominant."
Though wins are the ideal way to secure the playoffs, only a league championship truly does. For Centaurus, that 3A Northern League title would have to include knocking off Longmont, Fort Morgan and Thompson Valley — all three who are ranked to begin the season. Longmont is coming off a run to the 4A semifinals, while Fort Morgan made the 3A semifinals.
"We don't flinch, not at anyone," Losasso said.
COACH: Bob Carskie (Second year, 7-3 record)
LAST YEAR: 7-3, missed Class 3A playoffs
RETURNING STARTERS: Damian Aguilar (Jr., RB/DB, 5-8, 155); Joel Chopp (Sr., OL/DL, 5-11, 225); Matt Colligan (Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 260); Jeff DeBouvier (Sr., TE/DE, 6-0, 210); John Dixon (Sr., TE/DE, 6-2, 205); Anthony Losasso (Sr., RB/DB, 5-9, 165); Adrian Naranjo (Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 255); Mac Post (Jr., FB/LB, 6-1, 230); Dylan Serlin (Sr., WR/DB, 5-8, 155); Elijah Silver (Jr., RB/DB, 5-11, 180); Chris Varga (Sr., WR/DB, 5-11, 155) .
OTHERS TO WATCH: Asher Cook (So., TE/LB, 6-0, 185); Shaquille Ebadi (Sr., QB, 6-1, 195); Marcos Fontes (Sr., OL/DL, 5-11, 195); Andres Mendoza (So., WR/DB, 5-9, 140); Joe Ostrowski (Jr., OL/DL, 6-0, 205); Roberto Velasco (Jr., TE/LB, 5-11, 205); Daniel Zandstra (Sr., OL/LB, 5-11, 190).
DIVISION-I/COLLEGE PROSPECTS: Post.
MUST-SEE GAME: Oct. 21 vs. Silver Creek.
STRENGTHS: Carskie loves seeing the rise of the program numbers, and the Warriors were weight room junkies this summer but also took full advantage of playing a lot of 7-on-7 ball.
WEAKNESSES: There's no hiding the fact the Warriors need to get the ball rolling early to compete with Fort Morgan, Longmont and Thompson Valley — all new league foes who fell into the top 10 preseason rankings on CHSAAnow.com.
Sept. 1 — SKYVIEW, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — HARRISON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — BERTHOUD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Erie, Tiger Stadium, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — FREDERICK, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Fort Morgan*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — LONGMONT*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — SILVER CREEK*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — at Thompson Valley *, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — at Northridge*, 7 p.m.
Note: Home games upper case and at Spangenberg Field at Centaurus High School.
*Asterisk denotes 3A Northern League opponents.