Rap­tors on roll with Sch­mitt

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man

For the past half decade, it’s been clear that coach Mike Sch­mitt had Ea­gle­crest football on the up­swing.

Af­ter mak­ing a Class 5A quar­ter­fi­nal ap­pear­ance in 2012, the Rap­tors lost in dra­matic fash­ion in the sec­ond round to con­clude a promis­ing 2014 sea­son. Then the team posted a 4-6 record in 2015 — a fall marked by both youth­ful prom­ise and youth­ful in­con­sis­tency.

“When we won a play­off game in 2014 and then lost against Ral­ston Val­ley on a long, last-sec­ond field goal, you could see there was some signs we were build­ing more mo­men­tum for the pro­gram,” Ea­gle­crest ath­letic di­rec­tor Vince Orlando said. “That con­tin­ued last year even though our record didn’t in­di­cate that be­cause we were young in a lot of spots, but we were com­pet­i­tive in al­most every game we played and we gained a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence from that.”

Ev­ery­thing came to­gether quite nicely for Ea­gle­crest in 2016, as the Rap­tors (11-1) cruised to an un­de­feated reg­u­lar sea­son, a Mount Wil­son Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship and a quar­ter­fi­nal play­off ap­pear­ance to cap one of the best falls in pro­gram his­tory. Sch­mitt’s per­for­mance makes him the 2016 All-Colorado coach of the year.

It’s been with Sch­mitt, who just com­pleted his sev­enth sea­son at the school, that the Rap­tors, in a steadily grow­ing sec­tion of south­east Aurora, have been steadily im­prov­ing.

Part of that is be­cause of an in­flux of tal­ent with Den­ver Post All-Colorado wide­out, cor­ner­back and re­turner Vic­tor Garnes, All-Colorado line­man Eli­jah Brock­man and gun­sling­ing quar­ter­back Jalen Merg­er­son, but another big fac­tor is the cul­ture of work ethic and tough­ness the coach has in­stilled in his pro­gram.

Ea­gle­crest’s air-raid of­fense worked to near per­fec­tion this sea­son, as the Rap­tors av­er­aged 35.8 points per game while Merg­er­son threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touch­downs. Also, a stout de­fense held op­po­nents to one score or less in five games.

But as Ea­gle­crest’s hum­ble coach tells it, this year’s his­tory — which ended up a lit­tle short of adding another cham­pi­onship to the tro­phy hall to go with the Rap­tors’ Class 5A ti­tle in 1993 — is be­cause of the hard­work­ing, driven play­ers on his ros­ter.

“Last year, we lost some games be­cause we couldn’t grind out wins,” Sch­mitt said. “We felt like the off­sea­son was go­ing to be big for us to get big­ger and stronger, and ob­vi­ously we have some size … but we also had a ton of guys who came in and worked hard in the weight room to de­velop more tough­ness, and I think it paid div­i­dends in those first few games and even as we headed to the play­offs.”

Mike Sch­mitt guided Ea­gle­crest to an un­de­feated reg­u­lar sea­son this year.

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