Lindenstein: Raptors fitting in with Longmont’s prep tradition

LONGMONT — Talk about an intimidating neighborhood.

When Silver Creek High School opened in the fall of 2001, it debuted in a town where the other three major high schools all boasted proud athletic traditions.

Longmont High, the dean of the group, owns 21 team state championships, including six each in football and boys track. Niwot has racked up 14 crowns since its opening in 1972, including five in baseball and four in gymnastics. Skyline, shiny new in 1978, has won nine titles in a variety of sports, and took just four years to nab its first — boys hoops in the 1981-82 school year.

All of that’s not to mention the various other title game appearances and deep playoff runs by the group.

A decade into its existence, though, Silver Creek is fitting right in.

When the Raptors football team squares off against Windsor for Saturday’s Class 3A state championship game, it will be vying for the school’s fourth state title.

“I think we’re definitely starting to hold our own, being able to put our school on the map,” Raptors tight end Wyatt Knechtel said of the school’s rise athletically.

The football team is merely the latest SCHS program to get its shot at a crown. Since 2008, the Raptors have made themselves known with several deep postseason runs.

Girls soccer and boys swimming won titles in 2008. Girls basketball was state runner-up that year. In 2009, baseball, girls swimming and boys track all finished among the top five at state.

Of the school’s 18 sports, 12 have won at least one conference title.

“I think after the 2008 year it showed our feeder community they didn’t have to attend Longmont or Niwot or Skyline to have athletic success,” athletic director Phil Borchelt said.

This fall could end up being the most successful stint yet for the school.

In addition to the football team’s run that also includes a league crown:

The boys golf team won it’s fourth league title in a row on the way to the 4A state title.

The softball team won a league crown and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

The volleyball team took second in league and made the 4A great eight.

The boys soccer team finished second in league and went to the 4A sweet 16.

There are plenty of reasons for the success.

For one thing, football coach Mike Apodaca said, parents who are willing to put in the time and resources to help their kids succeed buoy the school.

For another, there has been coaching continuity in several programs despite early struggles as the school gained traction. Apodaca has led the football team for nine years. Bob Banning (boys basketball), Trevor Platt (baseball), Michael Silva (wrestling), and Barb Keith (track/cross country) have been at the school since the start. Others like Dan Kloster (girls hoops) and Debbie Stewart (swimming), as well as Borchelt, have been in their posts for several years as well.

Maybe the most important factor, though, is one of the toughest-to-measure intangibles.

Many of the kids who have come through Silver Creek knew of the town’s athletic traditions well. Knechtel’s father, Kurt, played at Longmont High. Defensive lineman Ben Woo Ching’s mother Jill attended Niwot, giving him plenty of perspective on the area’s history as well.

Woo Ching — who reluctantly calls Longmont High “a little bit of a big brother” — said Silver Creek kids have had chips on their shoulders about wanting to be part of the area’s success ever since the school opened.

“We want our name in the conversation with everyone,” Woo Ching said. “I think going in with that chip on our shoulder helped get where we are so quick.”

The Raptors are squarely in the middle of the conversation these days. And there’s the feeling heading into Saturday’s title game that we’ll be seeing SCHS maroon, black and silver in plenty more such events to come.