LONGMONT — The Palisade football team of the mid-1990s managed four straight Class 3A state titles, collecting the golden football from 1994-97.
Within the classification, they remain the last real dynasty after Silver Creek came up short in its attempt for a second straight state title Saturday at the hands of Coronado.
The Raptors — who actually have participated in the past three title games — were the third team since 1997 to make the finale the year after earning a championship. With a 28-24 setback to the Cougars at Everly-Montgomery Field, Silver Creek made it three times the defending champ has failed to repeat.
To clarify, Valor Christian won consecutive titles at the 4A level after its 2009 title in the 3A ranks. But they are the exception to the rule, at least of late.
“It’s one of the hardest things out there, because everyone knows who you are and you’re going to get everyone’s best effort,” said Raptors wide receiver Zane Lindsey, who had eight catches for 74 yards on Saturday. “Today, Coronado gave us their best and we couldn’t answer. They had more big plays, and it is just extremely tough to repeat.”
Silver Creek joins Florence and Rifle as the only three teams to even make the championship after winning the previous one since the run from Palisade. Florence was the first team to get that chance in 2003, falling to Palisade 24-6 in its bid to repeat. The Huskies were able to get a title in 2005, however, by beating then defending champ Rifle 35-14.
Clearly, the Raptors had the best chance to buck that trend, down just four points and with the ball in the fourth quarter. But Coronado stopped the Raptors last-minute rallying attempt, completing a remarkable run through the playoffs in which it won all four games by a combined 10 points.
“We still had a great season, so for me it’s hard to be so sad about our ending,” quarterback Ben Sjobakken said. “I’m proud of everyone for what we did on the season, and how we rallied today. We kept it close, and I love these guys to death. They’ll forever be in my memory.”
SIZZLING SPECIAL TEAMS
One consistent for the Raptors on Saturday was special teams. Not only did Anthony Kasper return the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give Silver Creek some early momentum, but Ryan Charles also knocked home a 43-yard field goal — easily his longest of the season.
Those plays came early, and punter Nico Rembert did his best to keep Coronado pinned down, too. He punted three times, with two of those landing behind the 10-yard line in the second half. Unfortunately, Coronado still managed to score touchdowns on both of those daunting drives.
“That’s absolutely one phase of the game that we did well today, and maybe a phase that let us down at different points of the season,” Silver Creek coach Mike Apodaca said. “Came up strong today, and gave us an opportunity. We just needed to capitalize more on what they did.”
Lindsey’s reception total on Saturday was good for a season-best, as he was quarterback Ben Sjobakken’s top target throughout the contest. The senior wideout finished the season with 56 catches for 739 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Cougars were going with single coverage for much of the game, and Lindsey caught four passes that were good for first downs.
“I think it was just hot reads on the defense, but I just know if you throw the ball anywhere near me I am going to come down with the catch 99 percent of the time,” Lindsey said. “It’s just something I take pride in.”
Also, Sjobakken’s TD toss to Brock Ricks that went for 58 yards gave him 31 for the season, tied for third most in the state along with Legend’s Peyton Remy.
Silver Creek was flagged for seven penalties for 73 yards. While that number is near level with the 81 yards Coronado gave away, the Raptors’ penalties proved much more costly. Facing a fourth-and-one and trailing 17-14 midway through the third, Coronado stepped to its own 15-yard line appearing to be ready to go for it. Though its unlikely CHS was set to run a play, they succeeded in drawing Silver Creek offside, giving the visitors a first down. Duvall took off for his 80-yard touchdown on the very next play.
Later, the Raptors defense was flagged for pass interference and third-and-four, giving the Cougars another first down. That miscue in part allowed CHS to complete a 17-play drive down the field that resulted in the winning touchdown.
SCHS also had a costly flag on the offensive side of the ball in the second quarter on a second-and-two. Already in the red zone, a holding call pushed the Raptors back 14 yards, killing the drive and forcing them to settle for a field goal rather collect a third TD.
Even though his Washington State team played the Apple Cup rivalry game against Washington just the day prior, there was no way former Silver Creek quarterback Austin Apodaca was going to miss the Raptors’ championship bid. He was on the sidelines cheering on his dad and brother, along with the rest of the team that included 23 seniors.
He got a chance to talk to the team beforehand, spilling some positive words prior to them taking the field.
“I tried to keep it low key, just told them it’s all about them and it was all up to them, basically,” Austin Apodaca said. “I’m so proud of them. It’s hard being so far away, being at a distance trying to follow along. But just hearing what they’ve done, it’s awesome to see them be successful.”
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