GREELEY — Time was ticking down on the Erie Tigers.
Coach Chad Cooper and his staff were out of time-outs and trailing Northridge with under 45 seconds to play.
He drew up two plays with the hopes that at least one would find the end zone.
With 25 seconds left, quarterback Ruben Portillo lofted a pass to the corner of the south end zone at District 6 Stadium and Alex Mathis went high and out-jumped the defender for the go-ahead score. It sealed the deal on a 45-41 win for the Tigers, who improved to 3-0.
"The call was fade right, the line did a great job of giving Ruben time and he just put it up there," said Mathis, who tweaked his knee on the play. "I just went up and got it."
It was a rousing comeback for the Tigers, who found themselves down 41-30 with nine minutes to play and seemingly had no momentum.
Northridge's Manny Araujo made the Tigers pay for a special teams mistake that gave the Grizzlies the ball at the 2-yard line. The bruising back, who finished with 104 yards on 16 carries went in for his second score of the game.
But Erie answered on the ensuing drive. They went back to a play that had paid great dividends all night and cashed in. Quintin Hyrup had three touchdown receptions in the second quarter, his fourth with 6:34 to play from 30 yards out made it a one score game again at 41-38.
"I knew I was getting the ball, but I didn't know the line would block like that," said Hyrup, who finished with five catches for 172 yards and four scores. "They just opened up and I was able to get in. This was supposed to be our challenge game to find out if we are real or not and we realize we are for real."
Cooper's team needed a defensive stop and they got it from Noah Roper.
After Northridge's big-playmaker Kaylor Werner set his team up in Erie territory with a huge kickoff return, the Grizzlies were primed to add to their lead, but Roper made a big hit on Corwin Kozan on a fourth down play that gave the ball back to the Tigers with 4:19 to play.
They went 79 yards in 12 plays, with a little help from an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on Northridge mixed in for the winning score.
"We are excited, but there is still a long way to go," Cooper said. "We definitely have bigger aspirations than just 3-0. It was a good night and we are going to savor it, but we've got more work to do."
Erie 45, Northridge 41
At District 6 StadiumErie (3-0) 3 20 7 15 — 45
Northridge (1-2) 0 27 7 7 — 41
Erie — FG Julian Custine 25.
Erie — Quintin Hyrup 47 pass from Ruben Portillo (Custine kick).
Northridge — Kaylor Werner 23 pass from Chance Eben (Kyla Beck kick).
Erie — Hyrup 52 pass from Portillo (kick blocked).
Northridge — Manny Araujo 6 run (Beck kick).
Northridge — Alanzo Lopez 9 run ).
Erie — Hyrup 45 pass from Portillo (Custine kick).
Northridge — Werner 60 pass from Eben (Beck kick).
Northridge — Lopez 1 run (Beck kick).
Erie — Portillo 1 run (Custine kick).
Northridge — Araujo 2 run (Beck kick).
Erie — Hyrup 30 pass from Portillo (Hunter Cremers pass from Portillo).
Erie — Alexander Mathis 16 pass from Portillo (Custine kick).
RUSHING — Erie: Noah Roper 18-119, Ruben Portillo 17-54, Joshua Cobb 8-62.Northridge: Manny Araujo 16-104, Alonzo Lopez 11-85, Kaylor Werner 6-30, Chance Eben 6-7, Devin Lunsford 6-2.
PASSING — Erie: Portillo 13-20-0-266.Northridge: Eben 17-27-1-227.
RECEIVING — Erie: Quintin Hyrup 5-172, Zach Roper 2-28, N. Roper 4-25, Ryley Deckert 2-21, Alexander Mathis 2-20.Northridge: Werner 6-139, Jake Hammer 3-38, Justin Frye 3-31, Corwin Kozan 2-13, Levi Mueller 1-22, Araujo 1-11, Lopez 1-0.