LAFAYETTE — If Noah Roper sleeps in a little bit Sunday morning, you'll have to forgive him. He's earned it.
The Erie junior put in a month's worth of work Saturday in leading the Tigers to a 38-13 victory at Centaurus and a 4-0 start to the season.
Unquestionably the focal point of the Erie offense, Roper had already established himself as one of the breakout stars of the 2017 prep campaign, rushing for 587 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first three games of the season.
But playing against a Warriors club that was desperate to pick up its first win of 2017, Roper took his game to another level.
With their passing attack non-existent, the Tigers turned to Roper again and again and again and again. He carried the ball 40 times, finishing with 291 yards and three scores.
Even more remarkable was his second-to-last carry was his longest of the game, a 40-yard scamper that set up his final touchdown run and all but closed the door on feisty Centaurus' chances late in the fourth quarter.
And that's not even taking into account he played almost every significant snap on defense, getting an interception in the end zone to foil one Warriors scoring threat on the last play of the first half, and returned punts and kicks.
In fact, the final time he touched the ball on the day he returned a punt 49 yards, breaking several tackles and throwing one defender to the ground to set up Erie at the Centaurus 9-yard line with two minutes, 29 seconds left in the game.
Jacob Mansdorfer scored from 1-yard out three plays later to shut the door on the day's scoring.
"I knew we were going to be doing a lot of running today," said Roper, who now has rushed for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. "It was totally just a grind-out type of game. (Centaurus) just packed the box. They knew we weren't going to be able to throw this game and that's all right. We just ran it down."
Already a run heavy squad, Erie coach Chad Cooper knew the Tigers were going to rely a little more on the ground game anyway as they were making a change under center with senior Mansdorfer getting his first start at quarterback. But with his squad failing to complete a single pass all game, even Cooper was surprised at how may times Roper ended up carrying the ball.
"Forty carries wasn't in the game plan necessarily but that's just kind of how game flow worked for us," Cooper said. "Obviously to play defense, have 40 carries and be on special teams — he's an extremely tough and talented kid."
There wasn't a whole lot of nuance to either teams offensive game plan, with Erie turning to Roper and it's massive front line to chew up 457 yards rushing, while Centaurus took the opposite tact, doing all of it's damage through the air.
With the Tigers' Cameron Marcucci, Jared Grove and Jaymeson Nelms and crew totally shutting down the Warriors ground game — they finished with minus-17 yards rushing — Centaurus turned to it's passing attack.
Sophomore Nick Faraca completed 17 of 31 attempts for 234 yards and a score. Andy Mendoza, who did a little bit of everything for the Warriors, was his favorite target, and the junior wideout finished with nine catches for 127 yards.
Elijah Silver also had a big day for Centaurus, hauling in seven catches for 119 yards.
And the Warriors were within striking distance until late in the fourth quarter, but that's little solace for coach Bob Carskie and crew, who are still searching for their first win of the year.
"We know we're a good 0-4 football team, and we take pride in who we are," Carskie said. "Our kids played with great effort and they took a lot of pride in playing this football game."
This game had special meaning for not only Roper, but both squads from Erie and Centaurus. It was dedicated to Shawn Torrez, a former member of the Warriors football team and Roper's cousin.
Torrez, a running back/defensive back who was a member of the 2017 graduating class, is battling leukemia. Several players have stickers of support on their helmets, and many wear bracelets to honor Torrez and his battle.
"Just after he graduated he was diagnosed with leukemia," Roper said. "This whole entire game we wanted to dedicate to him.
"I just wanted show him how much we care. We all came out to support him and we played for him. Even though he went to Centaurus, it doesn't matter. Football is family."
Centaurus travels to Frederick next Thursday, while Erie hosts Silver Creek next Friday.
Feel free to contact me with questions, suggestions or story ideas at 303-473-1315 or email@example.com
Erie 38, Centaurus 13
At Spangenberg FieldErie (4-0)714314—38Centaurus (0-4)6700—13
Erie — Jaden Gilmore 5 run (Julian Custine kick). Centaurus — Mac Post 2 run (kick failed).
Erie — Noah Roper 18 run (Custine kick). Erie — Roper 2 run (Custine kick). Centaurus — Elijah Silver 40 pass from Nick Faraca (Nick Gomez kick).
Erie — Custine 37 kick.
Erie — Roper 7 run (Custine kick). Erie — Jacob Mansdorfer 1 run (Custine kick).
RUSHING — Erie: Roper 40-291, Mansdorfer 20-114, Colby Wingfield 5-23, Gilmore 1-5, Custine 1-(minus) 7. Centaurus: Post 4-23, Andy Mendoza 3-(minus) 2, Jackson Sniff 1-(minus) 3, Faraca 7-(minus) 35.
PASSING — Erie: Mansdorfer 0-7-0-0. Centaurus: Faraca 17-31-1-234, Silver 1-1-0-25, Mendoza 1-3-0-18.
RECEIVING — Centaurus: Mendoza 9-127, Silver 7-119, Anthony Montoya 2-13, Post 1-18.