ERIE -- You had better start to believe in the Erie Tigers now.
Yes, even at 4-0, coach Chad Cooper's team had its naysayers.
But on Friday night, the No. 5 Tigers passed their biggest test of the season and recorded their strongest victory in a long time, outlasting No. 6 Silver Creek 18-10 in front of a raucous crowd that felt like it willed their team to a victory.
"They are getting better and better, but that right there was a testament to our defense," said Cooper, whose team's No. 11 RPI ranking should go up after the positive result. "The offense struggled a bit, but I thought we did a good job of containing the ball at times and keeping it out of the hands of their explosive offense."
Trailing 10-6 going to the fourth quarter, Erie opened with the ball in Silver Creek territory with a chance to grab the lead. And on a night when the Raptors defense did all they could to contain Noah Roper and the Erie ground game, things looked bleak on 4th and 10 from the 30 yard line.
"Football is the biggest team game out there, but getting the ball in the best players hands at critical times, like on that fourth down ... what's the best option? Get the ball to Noah," said Cooper, who drew up something special for his senior. "He went up and made a play."
Jacob Mansdorfer, who was starting his first game at quarterback for the Tigers on Friday night, threw a ball up for grabs in the far corner of the end zone and Roper went up and got it at it's peak over the Raptors defender for the go-ahead score.
"Better not drop it," said Roper, of the play.
Silver Creek had it's chances to answer in the fourth, but every time the Raptors were their own worst enemy.
On four occasions, coach Mike Apodaca's squad had snaps sail over quarterback Collin Black's head costing them precious field position and making things incredibly difficult on an offense that was trying to figure out different ways to solve a Tigers defense that played its best game of the season.
"Through our first five game, we have not be disciplined and we have to clean it up, because we have a new slate in front of us," said Apodaca, whose team begins conference play next week against Northridge with a 3-2 record. "This week compared to last (a last second defeat to Roosevelt), I thought our effort defensively was outstanding and we can build off of that."
The Raptors biggest defensive stand of the night came on with just over three minutes to play, when they stuffed Roper -- who finished with 130 yards -- on a 4th-and-1 from inside his own 5 to set up a potential 96-yard drive for the victory.
But as it did all night, the Tigers defense rose to the occasion and turned the Raptors over on downs to set up Roper's third and final score of the day, a 4-yard run with 2:06 to play to ice the game.
"I think this is the best win we have ever had in this program, because we have never beat Silver Creek," said Roper, whose team jumps to 5-0 and embarks on Tri-Valley league play next week at Max Marr Stadium in Berthoud.
ERIE 18, SILVER CREEK 10
At ErieSilver Creek (3-2)3700—10
Silver Creek — FG Coltan Grabau 26.
Erie — Noah Roper 7 run (run failed).
Silver Creek — Andreik Knechtel 28 pass from Collin Black (Grabau kick).
Erie — Roper 30 pass from Jacob Mansdorfer (kick blocked).
Erie — Roper 4 run (kick blocked).
RUSHING — Silver Creek: Andreik Knechtel 13-64, Brandon Harper 2-24, Collin Black 8-(minus-25). Erie: Noah Roper 32-130, Jacob Mansdorfer 8-40, Colby Wingfield 1-2.
PASSING — Silver Creek: Black 16-32-1-164, Spencer Rich 0-2-1-0. Erie: Mansdorfer 2-7-0-35.
RECEIVING — Silver Creek: Joe Roth-Bogrett 5-74, TJ Blazon 5-48, Brandon Graves 4-8, Knechtel 1-28, Patrick Miller 1-6. Erie: Roper 2-35.