LONGMONT– With everything on the line, Palisade attacked Silver Creek’s football team with just about every gimmick imaginable in the playbook.
By halftime, Silver Creek had withstood an assault that included a halfback pass, fake punts, onside kicks, and even a double pass. Some of the high-risk gambles worked spectacularly well and, combined with a stunning defensive touchdown on the final play of the first half, Palisade appeared on its way to a monumental upset victory on the road.
Yet none of the Bulldogs’ tricks provided the remedy that could slow down Silver Creek quarterback Austin Apodaca.
The Washington State-bound senior enjoyed a record-setting day at Everly-Montgomery Field, throwing for 450 yards and seven touchdowns to lead the Raptors to a 55-37 victory Saturday in a Class 3A semifinal showdown.
Third-seeded Silver Creek (12-1) earned its first state final berth and will take on fifth-seeded Windsor (12-1) for the title on Saturday at Legacy Stadium in Aurora. The Raptors defeated Windsor 41-21 on Sept. 30.
“We didn’t want it to end, and the main goal this season was to get to the state championship and win it,” Apodaca said. “We were really fired up in the locker room. What can you expect in a semifinal game? You’re not expecting to blow them out. It was a good, tough game going into the half. We wanted to win by a couple scores and not keep it close.”
Apodaca completed an identical 16-of-19 passes in each half, finishing 32-for-38 overall while setting a school record for touchdown passes in a game.
He became the sixth player in state history to toss at least seven touchdowns in one game, and his career total of 80 touchdown passes moved him into a tie for ninth-place on the all-time Colorado list.
Apodaca also increased his season total to 3,516 passing yards, good for third-place on the all-time single-season list for Colorado quarterbacks.
With a 72 percent completion percentage, he is threatening the 32-year-old single-season record of 73.5, which was set by current Bear Creek coach Tom Thenell when he played for Mullen in 1979.
“It has been so fun as a coach and a dad to watch him grow as a quarterback,” said Raptors coach Mike Apodaca, whose club also established a new school mark for points in a game. “Last week, we needed him to run the football. The winds weren’t playing in our favor, and he took it on his back. This week, we didn’t know what our plan was. Every week, we spend very little time watching their defense in terms of what they do, because we know we’ll do whatever based on what they do to try and stop us. (This time), the pass was open and Austin took advantage.”
Although Austin Apodaca’s hot hand helped stake the Raptors to a 29-10 lead midway through the second quarter, the scrappy Bulldogs refused to go away.
Palisade scored consecutive touchdowns late in the second quarter after recovering an onside kick and added a third score in the final 4:41 of the half after stunning Silver Creek on the last play of the frame.
Apodaca snapped the ball with the final seconds ticking away but was hit as he threw. The ball popped in the air to the Bulldogs’ Quinn Zamora, whose 70-yard return gave Palisade a 31-29 lead at the break.
The Bulldogs padded their lead on the opening drive of the third, taking a 37-29 edge on a 9-yard run by Ronald Kuntz.
Apodaca, however, immediately took over, throwing four touchdown passes as Silver Creek outscored Palisade 26-0 the rest of the way.
Four Silver Creek receivers–KC Lord, Greg Reynolds, Ryan Rankin, and tight end Wyatt Knechtel–posted at least 89 receiving yards, and all four caught touchdowns.
“We knew we were the better team — we were more physical — but we kind of lost our composure there in the first half,” Reynolds said. “The second half, we came out fired up. With Austin being able to see the all the receivers, he finds that one open guy. That’s what makes him so great.”
Silver Creek 55, Palisade 37
At Everly-Montgomery Stadium
Palisade (10-3) 7 24 6 0 — 37
Home Team (12-1) 22 7 13 13 — 55
Silver Creek — Ryan Rankin 30 pass from Austin Apodaca (Ryan Templeton kick).
Palisade — Caden Woods 60 pass from Spencer Jackson (Jackson kick) .
Silver Creek — Greg Reynolds 29 pass from Apodaca (Gibbs pass from Apodaca) .
Silver Creek — Ian McNabb 2 run (Templeton kick).
Palisade — Jackson 29 field goal.
Silver Creek — Wyatt Knechtel 36 pass from Apodaca (Templeton kick).
Palisade — Lane Orman 26 pass from Luke McLean (Jackson kick).
Palisade — McLean 1 run (Jackson kick).
Palisade — Quinn Zamora 70 interception return (Jackson kick).
Palisade — Ronald Kuntz 9 run (kick blocked).
Silver Creek — Greg Reynolds 30 pass from Apodaca (run failed).
Silver Creek — KC Lord 8 pass from Apodaca (Templeton kick).
Silver Creek — Rankin 11 pass from Apodaca (Templeton kick).
Silver Creek — Knechtel 18 pass from Apodaca (kick failed).
First downs 13 17
Rushes-yards 46-203 24-32
Passing yards 114 450
Comp-Att-Int 6-13-0 32-38-1
Punts-Avg. 3-37.0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-50 2-10
RUSHING — Palisade: Kuntz 16-94, McLean 15-48, Townsend 4-38, Zamora 8-23, Woods 3-0. Silver Creek: McNabb 17-37, Quiroz 1-1, Apodaca 1-(-6).
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Palisade: McLean 5-12-0 54, Jackson 1-1-0-60. Silver Creek: Apodaca 32-38-1-450.
RECEIVING — Palisade: Woods 3-66, Orman 2-51, Kuntz 1-(-1). Silver Creek: Lord 10-131, Reynolds 8-116, Knechtel 7-114, Rankin 7-89.