LONGMONT — The end of an era is coming for the Apodaca family on Saturday afternoon at Everly-Montgomery Field.
“I’ve got a 7-month-old grandson but I don’t know if I can stick around that long,” Silver Creek head coach Mike Apodaca said through some chuckles after a recent practice. “Not even looking that far ahead, just enjoying this last week.”
Perhaps 15 years down the line the family affair will continue, but Saturday’s Class 3A championship game against Coronado represents the last one for Mike Apocada’s tenure as a coach to one of his sons. There will be no tomorrow — no next year — for Mike’s youngest, Andre.
As the Raptors (10-2) prepare vigorously for the matchup against the 12-1 Cougars, there has not been a lot of time to ponder that. But there is no doubt both Mike and Andre have built a relationship through football that cannot be replaced.
“It’s been an amazing four years, being able to be right next to him,” Andre Apodaca said. “Especially him being my position coach … I’ve just been able to learn a lot from him. It’s been cool to be able to grow as a football player and as a person with him by my side.”
“I think it’s a good thing that we haven’t had time to think about it, and we’ve enjoyed the moment,” Mike added. “(The coaches) have talked about our kids in general, just enjoying the moment. I think most coaches do that with their seniors, and I think that’s just how him and I have approached it, as well. I am extremely grateful that I’ve gotten to spend 14 extra weeks with him (because of playoffs over the past few seasons). We’ve had a lot of time on the football field, and the fact that we’ve gotten all of it this year, as a dad, it’s an amazing experience.”
It’s been five years since the Raptors took the varsity field without an Apodaca suited up, and certainly during that time lasting memories have been made.
The 2011 season was particularly special, even though it did not end with a championship like 2012. That’s when older brother Austin guided the team to its first title game appearance as a senior, and Andre was a menace as a sophomore. The two brothers even connected on a touchdown that year, one of six career offensive scores for Andre.
Of course, while Austin became an all-state quarterback before moving on to Washington State, Andre grasped on to the craft of his father by becoming a linebacker. And it was known pretty early that he just had the knack for the position.
Even as a sophomore, Andre Apodaca was credited with 17 tackles for loss. His junior season, he piled up 158 total tackles and 21/2 sacks to go along with four interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries. In 2013, with one game to go, Apodaca has 129 tackles, 41/2 sacks and has forced five fumbles.
The stats have always been there, but Mike — who coaches the linebackers directly in addition to being the head coach — has seen Andre’s football knowledge go through the roof in 2013.
“I’ve really noticed in three years from him — he’s always been a bigger kid and he had some good people around him as a sophomore — technique-wise he was really raw,” Mike said. “This year, it’s just amazing to watch him become a student of the game, to understand blocking schemes and just do film-watching, putting yourself in great position to make a play. That’s what has stood out the most to me.”
Perhaps that’s a product of growing up around the game for so long and having the sport as one of the centerpieces of the family.
“(Football) is pretty much all we talk about. We watch film a lot and just kind of try and pick the offense apart, just scheme what kinds of things we can do,” added Andre. “It’s a pretty football-based house. It’s weird that it’s coming to an end, but I’m going to live in the moment. Just soak up all the memories since it’s going to be the last time I’ll be with him for my football life.” Andre’s departure could present the opportunity to Mike to bid farewell to the sidelines, too, but the coach said he’s not going anywhere right now.
“It’s what I do. I’m just really grateful that what I do and what I enjoy and have a passion for, my kids do, too,” he said. “I’m looking forward to continuing in the coaching profession.”
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