Raptors on roll with Schmitt
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.