LONGMONT — Strolling through a Silver Creek football practice, trying to pick out the starting offensive linemen is nearly impossible.
Without a roster or a coach to act as a guide, one might think the Raptors’ team is made up of 30 or 40 tight ends and fullbacks. From that group of players who seemingly could play any position from tailback to linebacker to safety, but not likely on the offensive line, the Raptors have put together a blocking unit that is pacing one of the state’s best offenses on a playoff run with unlimited potential in a wide open field.
To be clear, we’re talking about Zane Bishop, Jeremy Bartley, Cade Call, Ernesto Perez and Will Schrader. Those are the “big boys” up front that make everything work for the Raptors offense, and things are working very, very well.
“We just have a lot of chemistry together,” said Bartley, who starts at left guard. “Most of us are seniors and we’ve been together since middle school. We love being O-linemen and we just do it a bit different than other teams. We play hard and we play smart and we understand that when we do well, good things happen. We’re all working hard and it’s really nice being in relevant games this late in the season.”
Seeded fifth, the Raptors will take on fourth-seeded Lewis-Palmer in the Class 3A state quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m. After winning just three games last season, the Raptors are undefeated at 11-0. Bartley was the only returning starter a year ago but this year’s veteran group entered the 2016 season with a level of experience that has the Raptors rolling.
With offensive line depth even behind their starters, the Raptors boast a 2,100-yard passer, a 1,100-yard rusher, three 500-plus-yard receivers and an offense that averages 34.8 points per game.
“Our offensive line as whole, we’re all really athletic,” said Call, who starts at right tackle. “We aren’t the biggest guys but we can still hold our ground and we’re really fast so we can get out to the backers and things like that. Sometimes the defensive linemen are a little slower and that gives us an edge. Our offense also does a lot of different things and our skill set allows us to account for all of those things.”
Since before the season began, Raptors head coach Mike Apodaca, whose teams appeared in three straight state title games from 2011-13, has pointed to the offensive line as the biggest reason the Raptors could turn things around so quickly.
“First and foremost, they bring senior leadership,” Apodaca said. “And they enjoy being offensive linemen. These aren’t guys who have been converted and fought it forever. These guys came to us that way and they work at their craft, and that makes them easy to coach. We have a 1,000-yard rusher and a quarterback who has thrown for over 2,000 yards and more importantly, I don’t’ think our guys has been sacked more than three or four times in a game.
“At Silver Creek, we don’t get that six-foot-3, 280 body. We just don’t. But the guys on our line are so versatile that, as a coach, you just feel like you can counter whatever the other team throws at you.”