Silver Creek again knocks Palisade from Class 3A football playoffs

Palisade running back Ronald Kuntz is bottled up by Andre Apodaca, right, and several Silver Creek defenders during the third quarter of the Bulldogs’ loss Saturday to the Raptors in the Class 3A semifinals at Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont.



Silver Creek’s Anthony Emberly drags down Palisade’s JT Townsend on Saturday during the second quarter of the Raptors’ victory over the Bulldogs in the Class 3A semifinals in Longmont.



LONGMONT — Somehow, with its theme of toughness and an array of quirky and gutsy play calls, scrappy Palisade High School gobbled up a 19-point, second-quarter deficit Saturday afternoon.

But to make up for Austin Apodaca’s seven touchdown passes and 437 passing yards?

The Silver Creek quarterback was simply too much arm for the Bulldogs. He tied four others for second in single-game touchdown passes in Colorado prep football history.

No. 10 Palisade fell to Silver Creek 55-37 in a Class 3A state semifinal at Everly Montgomery Stadium as Apodada threw four second-half touchdowns during the Raptors’ 26-0 run to end the game.

Although Palisade (10-3) won’t be in this weekend’s state championship facing Windsor, a 19-0 winner over Frederick, it went out as only Palisade can: stubbornly, mercilessly and in the way it wanted.

Down 49-37 with six minutes remaining, the Bulldogs had a fourth-and-12 at its own 13.

“I’d rather die than lose the way someone else wants you to lose,” Palisade coach John Arledge said. “So we took a chance.”

The chance turned into an incomplete pass. Some Palisade fans booed, many screaming for a pass-interference call. It seemed they, too, refused to lose despite the inevitable.

And the inevitable was the arm of Washington State-bound Apodaca. When the defense blitzed, he rolled out with swift legs and hit a receiver. Sometimes he simply darted a pass, near a sideline and on the line of scrimmage, to KC Lord (75 yards receiving) or Greg Reynolds (167 yards receiving).

Or he’d make the play of the game. On fourth-and-8 with seven minutes remaining and Silver Creek ahead 42-37, Apodaca rolled to his right and completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Rankin.

In coach-speak, you take the good with the bad. For Apodaca, that game-clincher was the good. The bad came at the end of the first half when the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder zipped away from a blitz and tried to pass as he was being mobbed.

The ball wobbled five yards into the hands of Palisade’s Quinn Zamora, who went 65 yards for a touchdown to put Palisade ahead 31-29 at halftime.

During the break, those in the men’s restroom heard a voice booming from the adjacent Silver Creek locker room.

“That was probably me,” Raptors coach Mike Apodaca said. “Even that pick, or fumble, or whatever it was at the end of the first half, goes against what (Apodaca) usually does. Usually you take what the defense gives you. He probably could have ran for the first down but he’s looking to make something happen downfield and that’s the bright spot ... so you take the good with the bad.”

Palisade, meanwhile, showed razzle-dazzle on its first offensive play, a 60-yard halfback option touchdown pass from Caden Woods to Lane Orman.

Even when it was down 29-10 in the second quarter, Palisade blanketed Apodaca’s antics when Dalton Hannigan recovered an onside kick and Zamora rumbled the interception into the end zone as time expired.

Palisade looked as though it might contend for a seventh state championship.

But standouts, especially at quarterback, are primo in the playoffs. Apodaca completed 15 of 17 passes in the second half — including his final 10. Four were touchdown passes that came in the final 15 minutes.

“We have so many weapons,” Austin Apodaca said. “It’s not just inside or outside. It wide receivers, tight ends, slot receivers, running backs, our defense. Then we just take what they give us.”

The Bulldogs sacked Apodaca twice and often forced him out of the pocket. No doubt, they left their mark on the state playoffs with such tenacity, snarling and toppling bigger opponents like in their 47-7 quarterfinal win over No. 2 Kennedy.

But once again, Silver Creek (12-1), which defeated Palisade 14-12 in the first round last season, ousted the Bulldogs from the playoffs.

For the seniors, such as offensive linemen Zach Judis, Jeremiah Watson and Matthew Pitton, running backs JT Townsend and Ronald Kuntz, who had 89 yards rushing, including a 10-yard jaunt that put Palisade up 37-29 in the fourth quarter, and, of course, Zamora, high school football ended in the state semifinals.

“They were what every coach wants,” Arledge said. “They’re tough, hard-nosed football kids. If I had to roll the dice, and we took it to the parking lot to throw down (against Silver Creek), I’d take us. I love my kids.”


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