RIFLE, Colorado - Cody Beauford's statistics don't necessarily reflect what he means to Rifle High School's football team, but those within the program regard the senior linebacker and right guard as something of a superhero - sans the gaudy costume, of course.
"He's the unsung hero of the whole show," Bears head coach Damon Wells lauded. "He's invaluable to us offensively and he's invaluable to us defensively."
Teammates like running backs Ryan Moeller and Kellin Leigh score the touchdowns and rack up the yards, but quite often it is Beauford helping carve out their path to the end zone.
"I think it's fair to say he does everything Ryan does, just without the ball," Wells said. "Therefore, he doesn't have the statistics or the big name, but he has worked just as hard in the weight room. He's done at least as good of a job leading within the program and helping out the young kids.
"He's as dependable and tough a kid as we could ever hope to have in the program."
Tough and modest.
Beauford's humble demeanor is evident in his words, and probably has a lot to do with the unsung positioned ahead of hero in Wells' assessment.
"I think that goes out to a lot of us," he said when asked if he considers himself a leader.
After reminiscing a bit about his late sister, Megan, who died in a car accident six years ago, he made sure to note that he's not the only Bear to experience loss. And that he's not the only Bear who has leaned on football to help cope with loss.
"Jake [Whaley] hasn't gotten to play much this year, but he lost his mom, and a lot of people don't know about Eli [Boone], but he lost somebody," Beauford said. "A lot of our team has had losses, and I think football has kind of helped us, showing us that there's more to life."
Losing a loved one has a way of putting things into perspective. It may have something to do with why Beauford loves football so much. For him, it's not just about the game.
"Probably my favorite thing about football is being here with all my friends," he said. "We all come together really well."
So well that the entire team is something like family to Beauford.
"I don't think there could be a single best friend," he said. "We're all best friends."
And this group of best friends hopes to summit Class 3A's football mountain on Saturday, when they'll go up against Silver Creek in the state title game at Legacy Stadium in Aurora. Beauford and company carry a 13-0 record into the game, with hopes of making it 14-0 and authoring some school history.
"It would be a dream come true for me and a few of the other guys," Beauford said. "Before the last game [against Pueblo East], I don't know if it was on the ride over or at the hotel, but we were talking about how it's been our dream since the third grade to win a state title. We got to watch the 2004 team win, and we've seen all of it growing up. It's just a dream come true that we're actually here."
And Beauford, who has a team-high 122 tackles, has a lot to do with the Bears reaching this point.
Said Wells: "I've said it before, and I don't know if he's heard it, but I've been coaching football for, I think this is my 16th year. As far as I'm concerned, if I could just have Cody and [2006 Rifle grad] Mitch Kosht on the inside [of the line] ... neither one of them are the greatest athletes we've ever had come through the program, but I'd be happy because they're just fantastic football players and fantastic people to be around."