LONGMONT — The Silver Creek football team simply lacked the ability to throw the ball downfield in 2015 but that deficiency now seems like a distant memory.
For the most obvious example of the Raptors' passing re-emergence, just look at wide receiver Khari Harrison, who only now in his senior season is putting up silly numbers for the undefeated Raptors. As a result of the Raptors' sweeping offensive improvements, they can finally utilize Harrison's true and numerous talents.
No one is happier about that than Harrison himself and who could blame him? After a junior season of blocking and dreaming of having a pass or two come his way, now he knows he's getting the ball.
"I just love the game, I love playing," Harrison said. "It has been so much fun, so great, and I'm so content with this season so far. Every week I've just been super excited for the games because I know I'm going to get the opportunity to get touches and score."
Harrison's production is a primary reason the Raptors are 12-0 and set to face No. 1 Discovery Canyon in the Class 3A state semifinals on Saturday. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, running a 4.5-second forty-yard dash and boasting a 33-inch vertical leap, Harrison can run and catch with the best wideouts in Colorado. He also has great field vision and a confident swagger that makes him a threat to score whenever he has the ball.
In the Raptors' quarterfinal win over Lewis-Palmer, Harrison caught three touchdown passes including one for which he won a jump ball against two defenders, stayed on his feet and inbounds and ran down the sideline for a 57-yard score on third-and-long. The ability to make plays like that one has Harrison sitting at 966 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
"Those are the types of plays he can make," Raptors head coach Mike Apodaca said. "Khari is an unselfish player but the reality is that we're a better team when we can get him the ball. This year we knew we had the personnel around him to where we could get him the ball. That's why you're seeing him emerge. I believe he's just touching the surface of what he is."
Harrison moved to Longmont from Baltimore, Md., in the eighth grade. Settling at Altona Middle School, Harrison and the Altona football team won the state championship. Many of the players who played in that title game now form Silver Creek's talented senior class and since even before any of them were Raptors, this group has been counting down the days until their senior season in high school.
"We won that year and a lot of the kids we played against in the championship came to Silver Creek as well," Harrison said. "Ever since then we've felt like our senior year was going to be that year. I don't think anybody expected us to be undefeated but so far it's looking like that."
For any team to go from three wins, which was the Raptors' total in 2015, to undefeated title contender is unlikely to say the least. But the Raptors are only a couple years removed from making three consecutive from 2011-13, so maybe it's not as big a surprise.
More evidence that the Raptors' passing it attack is back, senior quarterback Dylan Ordway has passed for 2,454 yards and 27 touchdowns. Not just to Harrison, though he remains the favorite option, but to seven other players, three of whom have more than 370 yards receiving.
"Any time you throw it within Khari's reach, he's very likely going to come down with it," Ordway said. "We have so many weapons. I mean, I can turn around and hand it off and probably get a bunch of yards and I've had like three touchdowns on screen passes, so I know that any time I get the ball in someone's hands something good is going to happen."
Harrison plays basketball in the winter and runs track in the spring, but his first and lasting love has always been football. Apodaca, who is now regularly fielding calls from college coaches about his top receiver, said he Harrison likely will get his wish of playing at the next level.
It is unclear at this point whether Harrison's future at the next level will be as a wide receiver or defensive back, or what collegiate options will become available to him this late in the recruitment process. Whatever his future in the sport holds, he most definitely has a bright one.