LONGMONT — The Silver Creek defense seemed to be getting stronger as the state playoffs wore on. While the unit had proven to be stout throughout the course of the season, it was growing increasingly stingier the further the Raptors moved through the bracket, especially against the run.
SCHS allowed Pueblo East next to nothing on the ground, limiting the Eagles to 20 yards rushing on 21 carries in the quarterfinals. Delta didn’t fair any better in the semis, as the Panthers were able to rack up just 45 yards on 23 carries.
Heading into the state final, where Silver Creek was facing a Coronado attack featuring two 1,000-yard rushers in Austin Micci and Isaah Duvall, the Raptors had to know they were unlikely to completely eliminate their opponents backs the way they had in previous weeks. But they certainly would have liked to impede the visitors a bit more in Coronado’s 28-24 Class 3A championship win.
CHS played to its strength, using eight different rushers to collect 282 yards on 49 carries. Duvall led the pack, accounting for 187 yards on his own, including an 80-yard dash in the middle of the third quarter that gave the visitors their first lead of the ballgame. That performance brings his total to an impressive 1,325 yards rushing on the season.
“(Duvall) ran hard,” linebacker Andre Apodaca said. “We knew from an early point that he was a spinner, and we thought that we could contain him. We just didn’t execute as well we had hoped. Credit to Coronado.”
Coronado’s Zeb Foster also had himself a nice day, carrying nine times for 33 yards and the first two touchdowns of the game for Coronado. The junior seemed to step up in place of Micci, who appeared to be hampered by a leg injury at times throughout the day. And while Micci was limited to just eight yards on three carries, the rest of the Cougars proved up to the task of picking up the slack.
“Sometimes it just comes down to man-to-man football,” defensive back Sebastian Metcalf said. “Sometimes they beat you. That’s what they did today. Their line was just better than our line. They were able to push us farther and just work us. They were successful.”
Even quarterback Joah Smith, who entered the contest averaging just 17 yards per game on the ground, was able to get loose 10 times for 46 yards. It was Smith who took the rock on a third-down play and weaved his way through the Creek defense for a touchdown with 4:15 to play that gave the Cougars the lead for good.
Smith also wrecked havoc with his legs on several other instances, avoiding pressure and extending plays long enough for his receivers to find space when he did decide to pass.”We didn’t foresee a huge problem with the scrambling of the quarterback, and that obviously hurt us,” Metcalf said. “With them dropping back and passing we didn’t contain the quarterback and he hurt us, definitely.” After Coronado recovered from the shock of allowing a touchdown on the opening kickoff and then falling behind 17-0, the Cougars methodically began to move the ball downfield with their committee of backs. And the Raptors were ill-equipped to deal with the constant motion and barrage of options utilized by CHS.
This became more evident the longer the game went. After giving up 115 yards rushing and sacking the quarterback twice in the first half, including a forced fumble, which the Raptors recovered, Silver Creek allowed 167 on the ground in the second. They also were unable to take down Smith in the backfield once in the final 24 minutes of play.
In the end the Cougars prowess in the run game proved to be just too much for the Raptors to stop, proving the difference. But though Silver Creek was unable to complete its quest to repeat as state champion, one sub-par performance does not take away from the tremendous display the program has put on over the last several years. That fact was not lost on several of the team’s seniors.
“It means a lot being able to experience this,” Apodaca said. “Not a lot of people get to experience being in three state championships. So it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I’m proud to be a Raptor, I’m proud of the boys and our season.”
“There’s nothing I love more than these guys and I’m glad I got to play with them,” Metcalf added. “I wish them all the best next year. And the juniors as well, I hope that they can do something with their team next year.”
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