ERIE — Nathan Hackney told his coaches he was going to make a play.
The Erie Tigers' season was on the line against the three-time defending 3A champion Pueblo East on Friday night after they had taken a 22-21 lead with 52 seconds left.
Just enough time for the Eagles to make one last drive.
Hackney had other ideas.
"I knew when it came down to it, I wanted it to be in my hands," said Hackney, who came around the left side of the Pueblo East line and got to Eagles quarterback Luc Andrada, forced a fumble that the Tigers recovered to seal their first playoff win since 2008.
"It's something I can say I did for the team. I told them to put me at end, and I will win us this game right here."
The win for the No. 5-seeded Tigers (9-2) propels them to the second round, where they will face No. 13 Durango on Saturday. The Demons stunned No. 4 Canon City 49-21.
A remarkable fourth quarter saw No. 12 Pueblo East (5-6) start with the ball on their own 15-yard line after recovering Noah Roper's first fumble of the year on the final play of the third.
The Eagles methodically drove the ball 85 yards in 14 plays, eating up 8 minutes and 14 seconds of clock to take a 21-14 lead on Andrada's 1 yard touchdown plunge.
It left just enough time, for the Tigers to drive for their season.
Erie orchestrated a brilliant drive of their own, mixing the Noah Roper runs with well timed passes — including a 31-yard hook-up from Dion Lucero to Jaymeson Nelms — who coach Chad Cooper nicknamed "Guts of Steel" after the catch — with under two minutes to play.
"We learned a lesson against Roosevelt about ourselves that we are a running team and we needed to get the ball to Noah, because good things happen," said Erie coach Chad Cooper, whose junior back finished with 213 yards on 33 carries. "You've got to stay who you are with three minutes left in the game."
The Tigers had success all night with a simple roll-out and quick pass in the flat and made it work one last time with 52 seconds left when Lucero connected with Zach Rees for a 12-yard score to make it 21-20.
Then the debate began. And after a couple of time-outs, Cooper and his coaches decided to put their season on the line and go for the 2-pt. conversion and the win.
After a few tense moments of determining whether Roper — whose first quarter 12-yard touchdown reception was one for the highlights reels — crossed the goal line with his power run over the right side, the official came running in with arms raised.
"We talked about it and then we second guessed it a little bit and then we were like, 'Why not?,'" Cooper said. "My assistant in the box said do it and we decided to go for it.
"Noah obviously, but our offensive line, tight ends ... it was a slugfest and a great end to a great high school football game."
ERIE 22, PUEBLO EAST 21
At EriePueblo East (5-6)14007—21Erie (9-2)01408—22
Pueblo East — Luc Andrada 2 run (Efran Perez kick).
Pueblo East — Kain Medrano 15 pass from Andrada (Perez kick).
Erie — Noah Roper 12 pass from Dion Lucero (Julian Custine kick).
Erie — Roper 7 run (Custine kick).
Pueblo East — Andrada 1 run (Perez kick).
Erie — Zach Rees 8 pass from Lucero (Roper run).
RUSHING — Pueblo East: Sebastian Benavidez 26-127, Luc Andrada 8-42, Noah Rivera 1-12, Luis Martinez 3-7, Marcus Winston 1-1. Erie: Noah Roper 33-213, Jacob Mansdorfer 5-24, Colby Wingfield 1-2.
PASSING — Pueblo East: Andrada 8-12-0-99. Erie: Dion Lucero 8-14-1-97.
RECEIVING — Pueblo East: Kain Medrano 4-63, Marcus Winston 2-19, Donavin Ada 2-17. Erie: Zach Rees 4-31, Jacob Mansdorfer 2-23, Jaymeson Nelms 1-31, Roper 1-12.