Arapahoe football’s best times under 15th-year coach Mike Campbell, as the program experienced during its undefeated regular season two years ago, have largely been because of players in the trenches such as right tackle Blake Carette.
Carette was a sophomore starter during that 2015 campaign, and Campbell — a 1990 Arapahoe graduate who has his longtime number 72 tattooed on his lower leg, a daily reminder to his players of lineman roots — realizes Carette is the team’s primary veteran linchpin this fall.
“Everything we do is going to rise and fall on his leadership, as well as the other seniors,” Campbell said. “He did a great job in the weight room this summer leading through his actions, and now it’s about him being our rock in the huddle when things get tough, as they might against good teams like Cherry Creek and Grandview.”
The Air Force Academy commit is the program’s first Division I FBS player in a decade as the Warriors, ranked No. 10 in the Class 5A preseason power rankings, look to rebound after last season’s 5-5 record left them out of the playoffs.
“Everyone on the team knows that this year could be pretty special as long as we each do our individual jobs,” Carette said. “I have 100 percent faith in the guys next to me on the line, and that we can give our quarterback (junior Kevin Lukasiewicz) the time he needs to make the offense work as well as give the time the defense needs to stay off the field.”
Senior left tackle Grant Cavazos, who has also started since his sophomore season, noted Carette’s influence on the team’s skill players can be seen on a day-to-day basis in practice.
“Blake really brings the offensive line together, and not only that, he also brings the quarterbacks, running backs and wideouts together,” Cavazos said. “He brings the whole team together, in unison, toward our goals.”
Other key returners such as senior saftey/tailback Alex Smith, senior tight end Jake Groth, senior wideout Scott Dement and senior defensive end/fullback Deven Harriet provide plenty more bright spots in a season where the Warriors barely cracked 100 players in the whole program, a low in the 22 seasons Campbell has been coaching at University and Dry Creek.
That lack of depth makes the Warriors’ pursuit of a Mount Massive Conference title — and an automatic playoff berth — increasingly precarious.
“If we can stay healthy, we can play with just about everybody,” Campbell said. “But if we have a couple injuries at the wrong spots, we’ll be in big trouble, because we just don’t have the sheer numbers other big-school programs do.”
And as Carette continues to firm up his college plans — he’s still working on obtaining a nomination to actually be accepted into the Air Force Academy, and could potentially play for their prep school team next year — the senior is staying focused on what’s immediately ahead of him, which is another potentially historic Arapahoe football season.
“There are a lot of similarities between this year and 2015,” Carette said. “Our senior leadership is back to where it was my sophomore year, because I feel like last year we lost a bit of that. This fall, we’re all pushing each other. We know we’re kind of an underdog in 5A, but we believe in each other and the talent we have.”
2017 Arapahoe football schedule
Sept. 2, 1 p.m. @ Rock Canyon (Shea)
Sept. 8, 7 p.m. @ Heritage (LPSS)
Sept. 16, 1 p.m. vs Cherry Creek (LPSS)
Sept. 22, 7 p.m. vs Mountain Vista (LPSS)
Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. @ Fairview (Recht)
Oct. 6, 7 p.m. vs Overland (LPSS)
Oct. 13, 7 p.m. vs Doherty (LPSS)
Oct. 20, 7 p.m. @ Boulder (Recht)
Oct. 27, 7 p.m. @ Grandview (Legacy)
Nov. 4, 1 p.m. vs Smoky Hill (LPSS)