When the final buzzer sounded on Eaglecrest’s 50-49 win at Smoky Hill Jan. 19, Raptors’ coach Jarris Krapcha came out of his seat to celebrate.
Krapcha spent a few moments jumping around with his players in the wake of the one of the most recent big wins that Eaglecrest has come away with of late.
The Raptors — the defending Class 5A state champions — were 5-5 through 10 games under their new head coach, but the victory over the Buffaloes was their fourth straight as momentum has built.
“It’s pretty obvious if you watch me coach that my heart is on my sleeve,” Krapcha said. “There were some pretty tense moments and I had to celebrate with my guys out there.”
Krapcha made the move to Eaglecrest from a successful stint at Doherty to take over for coaching legend John Olander, who stepped down after leading the Raptors to the program’s second state title.
With Olander still in the building, Krapcha can consult him about what it’s like to coach in the Centennial League on a night in, night out basis, but it’s hard to really convey it until you are in the fire.
Krapcha has already experienced the rollercoaster ride, with tough losses — back-to-back against Overland and Mullen to open league play —followed by gritty road wins in difficult venues at Arapahoe, Cherry Creek and Smoky Hill with a home win against rival Grandview.
“What a great league, right?” Krapcha said. “That’s part of why I signed up. It’s the best league in the state at least in my book and these are fun environments to coach in and fun environments for our kids to play in.”
He’s also becoming more used to looking across at opposing benches and seeing the likes of Hall of Famer Bob Caton at Mullen, two-time state championship winner Danny Fisher at Overland and many other coaches with impressive, successful resumes.
“I’ve got to earn my stripes a little bit more, but I hope I can eventually fit in with that group because that’s a special group of coaches,” Krapcha said.
Krapcha asked his players to operate in a completely different manner than they did under Olander, part of why the opening part of the season was a bit rough.
Another factor was a grueling non-league schedule that included matchups with undefeated Rock Canyon and Chaparral. The Raptors lost those games by a combined eight points, however, and showed flashes, as they did in another tight non-league loss to powerhouse Denver East Jan. 22.
Things seem to be coming together now for a squad without many returners from last season — especially with Victor Garnes not joining the team in the wake of shoulder surgery from the football season — but has players such as XaiV’ion Jackson, Morgan Brown, Aaron Bokol, Jalen Talbott and Kenny Thrower who were around for the title run.
Senior Branden Bunn — whose free throw provided the winning margin in the wild win over Smoky Hill — has emerged to lead the team in scoring and football player Thomas Dangerfield III has provided a spark of late as well.
“We’re getting adapted to him,” Bunn said of Krapcha. “He’s a good coach, a great coach actually. He puts us in the best possible spots.”
Krapcha is also about to experience another challenge of the Centennial League, playing the second round against the same teams.
“Now we get to do it again, but this is going to prepare us for the playoffs,” he said. “I can’t wait to play them all again. Win or lose, this is a blast every night.
“It’s a lot of fun.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2017-18 CENTENNIAL LEAGUE STANDINGS (THROUGH 1ST ROUND)
Overland 7-0 (9-7 0verall); Eaglecrest 5-2 (10-6 overall); Grandview (5-2, 13-3 overall); Smoky Hill 3-4 (10-6 overall); Cherry Creek 3-4 (9-7 overall); Mullen 3-4 (8-7 overall); Cherokee Trail 2-5 (8-8 overall); Arapahoe 0-7 (3-13 overall)