Stellar career comes to an end for Tapia
November 26, 2016
There were tears, yells, taunts, boos and more tears Saturday in the testy aftermath of Windsor's 25-13 loss to Broomfield in semifinals of the Class 4A Football Championships.
Corte Tapia emerged from it defiant, waving his arms at the Broomfield crowd that booed him and cupping his hand to his ear as if he couldn't hear them.
The scrum after the game was as intense as the contest that preceded it, as the postgame handshake line erupted and the two teams had to be separated.
Tapia, Windsor's star senior linebacker, was in the middle of it.
"Their defensive coordinator attacked me and my family," Tapia said, alleging the coach used a profanity-laced derogatory term to describe him and his father. "Their players are good, they're nice kids, but that coach said that. That's not sportsmanlike."
"It was just emotions getting the better of people," Broomfield coach Blair Hubbard said.
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"Rise above it," Windsor coach Skylar Brower told Tapia. "He's going to be a Division-I athlete. He'll face a lot rowdier crowds than that in the future."
That was far from the ideal end to Tapia's career, as he strode off a high school football field for the last time as a player, but even in the end he showed the edge that had helped the Wizards to their spectacular success the last two years. Windsor won the state title a year ago only for its championship defense to end one game short of a return trip this season.
It hurts for Tapia, the rare four-year varsity player, who wanted badly to win this game for Kyle Nackos, the Windsor alum who died in a car wreck early Thursday morning. It hurts for Brower, who can't send the kid he calls "the ultimate team player" out on top.
That moniker — the ultimate team player — encapsulates Tapia's career better than any others. Coaches often use the cliche that certain players will do whatever it takes to win. Tapia lived that cliche.
He played inside linebacker and both outside linebacker positions. He lined up as a running back and a wing in the Wizards' triple-option offense. He was the focal point of the offense on certain plays and a decoy on others.
He lived in the backfield on some defensive snaps, but would just as soon occupy two blockers at the point of attack to let a teammate make a play.
Tapia's final stat line is one of the best in state history — 420 tackles, 77.5 tackles for a loss, eight forced fumbles, three blocked punts and 46 sacks, which, according to the Colorado High School Activities Association, is a state record. He also ran for 331 yards at 5.8 per carry and scored five rushing touchdowns.
"He can look back on his career and be proud," Brower said when asked what he told Tapia after the game. "He's a unique individual."
Against Broomfield, Tapia helped to hold the Eagles' breakout sophomore quarterback Steven Croell to just 7-of-16 passing for 94 yards, well below Croell's season line of completing 54 percent of his passes for 158 yards per game.
He also scored the game's first touchdown, on a 1-yard plunge a play after he rumbled 19 yards through the entire Broomfield defense to set up first-and-goal.
Tapia wasn't the dominant presence he was for most of the last four years. No matter where the Wizards moved him on defense, he occupied Broomfield's attention. He did get some good licks in, though, like a nasty hit on Croell as he threw the ball that left the sophomore on the ground wondering what in the world just smacked him.
Tapia won't have to wait long to get back to stuffing runs and smashing quarterbacks. He'll play for Colorado State University next fall, having committed there as 247Sports 11th-ranked recruit in the state. In that way, Tapia is luckier than many of his classmates, like quarterback Brad Peeples, running back Caleb Bangs and defensive back Andy Evans.
"We have 22 seniors who probably just played their last game," Brower said.
That is probably what hurts Tapia the most. When he next takes the field, his teammates won't be the kids he grew up with, or won a state title with. But those kinds of friendships survive moves, graduations and life's other turns.
Peeples and Evans won't physically be with Tapia when he lines up in green and gold, but they won't have left him.
"We'll keep in touch," Tapia said. "Those guys will be by my side."