LONGMONT — Already with a head of steam on the play, Mead junior linebacker Jordan Steele couldn't have asked for a better bounce on an Erie fumble in Friday's homecoming game that was a key contest in the Tri-Valley League.
There were no tricks in picking up the football on the fly, and Steele treated himself and his teammates to a 76-yard defensive touchdown in the third quarter that may have been the difference in a 35-32 Mavericks win.
Truth be told, defenses weren't the game's story line as the teams both were good for over 350 yards of offense. But the timing of Steele's TD and a fourth-down stop that turned into Mead points early in the fourth quarter was what provided the hosts a large enough cushion to outlast the talented Tigers.
"Two great teams out there, but we wanted this for our seniors because it might be the last time they play on this field," said Steele, who helped his team improve to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the TVL. "That's what it was about.
"Our defense really had to come out and work our butts off because if we didn't it could have gone a completely different way."
Mead indeed was celebrating a lot of things Friday — senior night as well as homecoming brought out a fantastic crowd. For Erie, the game was built up as one of extreme importance, with the Tigers currently sitting at No. 13 in the Class 4A RPI.
While they dropped to 5-4 overall and 1-3 in league, the Tigers appear like a team that could still make the playoffs. They played with every bit of grit that was expected against the Mavericks, too.
Erie claimed a 14-7 lead in the second quarter — thanks to two of the three touchdown catches Quintin Hyrup hauled in for the night. Mead bounced back and took a 15-14 lead before halftime when Nathan Mackey ran for the second of his three scores with just 1 minute, 56 seconds to go in the second quarter.
Erie had the ball for the first 7 minutes of the third quarter yet found itself farther behind than when it started out of the locker room. A short opening kickoff led to a 20-yard Julian Custine field goal to make it 17-15 for EHS, but upon getting a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff Erie gave it right back — and then some — with Steele's touchdown and a turnover on downs on the next possession.
Riley Glynn hit Derek Edwards for a 23-yard TD toss early in the fourth quarter to make it 29-17, and the teams exchanged three more touchdowns. Erie made it 35-32 and had a chance to recover an onsides kick, but Glynn managed to recover it and give his team a chance to run out the clock.
"Really in the first half I was already thinking the team with the ball last was going to win it probably," said Mead coach Jason Klatt. "Our defense made enough plays to win, and that fumble return really put us ahead and allowed our offense to grind them down a bit.
"We went for a couple of fourth-down plays and scored touchdowns on them. Credit to the kids for the fight tonight."
Both teams had some special performances in the skill positions. Mackey had 228 yards on 33 carries; Erie's Noah Roper had 136 yards on 19 carries; and Hyrup caught nine passes for 139 yards.
"We pushed hard for this one and every one of us can look in the mirror tomorrow and say we played our hearts out, but there were just a couple mental mistakes," Hyrup said. "This was a tough team and we showed up and hung with them."
Erie closes out the regular season against Frederick, while Mead (No. 10 RPI) has Berthoud in is finale.
Mead 35, Erie 32
At Maverick StadiumErie (5-4, 1-3) 7 7 3 15 — 32 Mead (6-3, 3-1) 7 8 7 13 — 35
Mead — Nathan Mackey 8 run (Taylor Kamigaki kick). Erie — Quintin Hyrup 14 pass from Ruben Portillo (Julian Custine kick).
Erie — Hyrup 24 pass from Portillo (Custine kick). Mead — Mackey 7 run (Evan Hansen pass from Glynn).
Erie — Custine 20 field goal. Mead — Jordan Steele 76 fumble return (Kamigaki kick).
Mead — Derek Edwards 26 pass from Glynn (Kamigaki kick). Erie — Portillo 5 run (Custine kick). Mead — Mackey 13 run (kick blocked). Erie — Hyrup 23 pass from Portillo (Hunter Cremers pass from Portillo).
RUSHING — Erie: Noah Roper 19-136, Ruben Portillo 7-28, Trevor David 4-12. Mead: Nathan Mackey 33-228, Riley Glynn 9-56, Tyler Keys 4-27, Gino Musick 2-11.
PASSING — Erie: Portillo 17-27-1-221. Mead: Glynn 3-5-0-62.
RECEIVING — Erie: Quintin Hyrup 9-139, Alex Mathis 2-24, Addison Fraser 2-33, N. Roper 2-11, Z. Roper 1-9, Ryley Deckert 1-4, Mead: Derek Edwards 2-47, Mackey 1-15.