FREDERICK — For the first time in several years, the rivalry game between the Frederick and Erie football teams on Friday night had a lot more riding on it than just the Miners Trophy presented to the winner.
The regular season finale presented the Tigers and Warriors with a playoff atmosphere — with Erie guaranteed a spot in the postseason and Frederick fighting with every ounce knowing a win would push its hopes into more of a reality.
Visiting Erie's Noah Roper had his say in the outcome with four touchdown rushes, but the 40-24 victory for EHS was ushered along by a stretch of 26 straight points in the second half which included two Dion Lucero touchdown passes.
Erie (8-2 overall, No. 6 ratings percentage index in Class 3A) won for the fourth straight time in the series and put Frederick (6-4, No. 15 RPI) on even more of a bubble. Brackets for the playoffs will be presented on Sunday.
"It was a really big one for us, especially the seniors because this was their last shot at Frederick," said Lucero, who had his best game of the season throwing for 173 yards. "We came out firing. Second half, we just really kind of got going with the flow."
"Noah obviously had a great game like he usually does, but I thought the offensive line really churned the motor for us tonight as well as Dion hitting open guys down the field to give us some balance," Erie head coach Chad Cooper said, his team coming back into the win column after two straight tough losses. "I'm glad we had this five-game run (in the Tri-Valley League). Sometimes you think, man this is tough, but hopefully it's prepared us to face tough situations in the playoffs. All of these league teams are going to be tough outs when it comes to playoffs."
Frederick held a 10-7 lead at the half as Roper was held to just 49 yards on 10 carries, but the explosive senior was able to find his rhythm as soon as the first play of the third quarter. He busted out for a 70-yard scoring run to put Erie on top 14-10, and was good for another 61-yard TD run as the third stanza came to a close to make it 28-17.
Those two runs accounted for a majority of his 224 yards on the ground, but it was that initial blast through the line in the third quarter that got the Tigers rolling.
"First play of the second half, we went out on the field and I just told Noah 'Let's go baby,' and he took it to the house," Lucero said.
Frederick answered Roper's long run with a nifty touchdown catch and run from Dante Ciaravola, an 18-yard score with 10:08 to go in the third quarter to stake a 17-14 lead, but the Warriors followed that 70-yard drive with just two first downs, three punts and an interception.
Lucero hit Justin Kirchner in the back of the end zone to make it 21-14, and the sophomore then found a wide open Zach Rees up the middle of the field for a 38-yard score in the fourth quarter, setting Erie up for a celebration at game's end.
Frederick should have reason to celebrate, too, on Sunday. The RPI can be a quirky thing, but Durango's win over Harrison was the only result on Friday night that may hurt the Warriors. The Demons were 16th in the RPI prior to the win.
Longmont's win over No. 18 RPI Fort Morgan pushes the Mustangs out of contention, while No. 13 Thomas Jefferson walloped No. 17 Denver North, too.
"Maybe we'll see Erie again," said Frederick sophomore Jake Green, who threw for 120 yards in the loss. "It feels good knowing that we've come from the past three years to this point, and all the seniors have put in a lot of work to help us all out. I hope we can get playoffs for them."
Erie 40, Frederick 24
At Frederick HSErie (8-2, 3-2) 0 7 21 12—40
Frederick (6-4, 2-3) 7 3 7 7—24
Frederick — James Jones 2 run (Luke Dunker kick).
Erie — Noah Roper 1 run (Julian Custine kick). Frederick — Dunker 36 field goal.
Erie — Roper 70 run (Custine kick). Frederick — Dante Ciaravola 18 pass from Jake Green (Dunker kick). Erie — Justin Kirchner 9 pass from Dion Lucero (Custine kick). Erie — Roper 61 run (Custine kick).
Erie — Zach Rees 38 pass from Lucero (kick failed) Erie — Roper 1 run (kick failed). Frederick — Matt Olson 29 run (Dunker kick).
RUSHING — Erie: Noah Roper 21-224, Colby Wingfield 8-44, Jacob Mansdorfer 3-13. Frederick: James Jones 14-77, Jacob Cole 12-72, Matt Olson 12-91, Brandon Hornby 3-11, Dominic Robb 1-2, Jake Green 3-(minus-17).
PASSING — Erie: Dion Lucero 8-14-0-173. Frederick: Green 10-15-1-120.
RECEIVING — Erie: Mansdorfer 3-49, Roper 1-17, Isaac Khanna 1-4, Kaleb Fuhrmann 1-56, Justin Kirchner 1-9, Zach Rees 1-38. Frederick: Olson 4-14, Robb 1-4, Cole 2-23, Jones 1-49, Dante Ciaravola 2-30.