Anthony Kasper is the carry-everything-on-his-back type of football player coaches at all levels drool over. The Silver Creek running back has earned a reputation for grinding his feet and digging his cleats deep into the turf until momentum, or the sheer weight of the group of tacklers bringing him down, finally wins out.
The senior said recently that Raptors football has become a family, and in 2015 that family includes a bevy of younger brothers.
The Raptors are junior-heavy in their second season of Class 4A football. They became even younger when senior Austin Wood, last year's starting quarterback, decided to focus on baseball. Kasper is one of just eight seniors on the team, but he said he expects big things from his gridiron siblings.
"That junior class, they're pretty stacked," Kasper said after a scrimmage last Friday night. "Us being a small senior class, it opens up a lot of opportunities for them to get the reps that they need so that come game time, they're on point.
"They're getting better each and every day."
That Woods is concentrating on baseball is a great thing, Kasper and head coach Mike Apodaca agreed. The 6-foot-5 pitcher has verbally committed to Furman University, which is a Division I program. The baseball coach in Apodaca couldn't argue the decision whatsoever, and the football coach said the team has to treat it just like a preseason injury.
The way to cope is simply this: next man up.
Dylan Ordway, a junior, is likely to fill that role. And while the Raptors love to pass the ball, one can expect Kasper to be a featured back during the season. He is a four-year varsity player, and Apodaca leaned on him heavily last year, too. He gained 1,647 all-purpose yards as a junior and scored 14 total touchdowns. For good measure, he threw a touchdown pass on his only attempt.
"He's been around forever, and I'm glad he's with us this year," Apodaca said. "You're fortunate when you have four, five, six guys to rely on, and he's one where, yeah, we'll ride his back a little bit.
"We have some dynamic kids, and I think we'll use the edge a little bit. At the end of the day, he'll be our workhorse."
Some of the other juniors expected to fill roles in skill positions include Caden Bradbury and Lukas Bush, both who will get the ball through a variety of ways.
The Raptors may be light in their senior class, but those players know winning and know it well. It's in that respect that Apodaca feels the group can groom the rest of their teammates in 2015.
Kasper said he wants to be a part of that process.
"This is my family and they mean everything to me," Kasper said. "I'm not going out there for me, because it's my senior year, I'm going out to play for them. I want to do everything I can to help our team get the win."
Ultimately, the Raptors are out to rebound from a 3-7 campaign in which the wins might not have shown the true competitiveness of the team in the Class 4A Northern League.
At the 3A level, there may have been times when the Raptors didn't have to be at their best to get a victory. Silver Creek took some hard losses last year because of one play or two, and Apodaca said he feels there is more of a comfort level with what to expect heading into this season.
"The juniors are going to have to learn on the fly ... and we have as tough a schedule as anyone with six ranked teams in our 10 games," Apodaca said. "We're going to have to learn to prepare week by week, and we're excited for that."