For the first time in years, last season's rivalry football game between Erie and Frederick meant a lot more than which team would head home with the symbolic Miners Trophy.
In the 2017 regular-season finale for both teams, the Erie Tigers won 40-24 and went on to play in the Class 3A state championship game. The Warriors, who won six games to snap a three-year streak of winning one or zero wins per season, finished just barely on the wrong side of the playoff bubble and missed out on what would have been the team's first postseason berth since 2013.
That game influenced the potential realization of both teams' bigger-picture aspirations.
Both teams looked like playoffs-caliber squads last year and the Tigers (2-0) and Warriors (1-0) both look just as good, if not better, less than a year later and early in the 2018 campaign. When they put their lofty goals on the line yet again and reprise their rivalry on Friday night at Erie High School, the Miners Trophy won't be the only thing at stake for the second straight season.
"There are a lot of people who love this game on both sides, and a lot of people who have family members who played in this game," Erie senior Noah Roper said. "That's how rivalry games are. You always get the best from your opponent. People step up in every spot and it's always a good game."
The Erie Tigers enter this week's game as the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A, according to the CHSAANow.com poll. Much like last year the Frederick Warriors are just on the outside and looking in, unranked but receiving the most votes of any unranked team with 12.
Roper, who led all of Colorado with 2,631 rushing yards and scored 36 touchdowns last season, broke his nose making a tackle early in last week's game. Despite the injury, he has still rushed for 432 yards and six touchdowns through two games. The Tigers defense has allowed just 21 points in two games that included a Week 2 win over a Pueblo South team that won the Class 4A state championship in 2017.
In a 37-6 win over Kennedy in which Frederick led 30-0 at halftime in Week 1, the Warriors spread the ball around between 12 ball-carriers and scored five rushing touchdowns. They were led by junior Trey Odell, who took the ball 12 times for 109 yards and had long run of 34 yards.
Defensively, the Warriors held Kennedy to 203 yards of total offense. That type of dominance is unlikely against a team with a rushing attack the caliber of Erie's. Still, Frederick head coach Travis Peeples is looking forward to the challenge, and also to another rivalry game that also could have statewide implications in what has been re-classified as a non-conference matchup in 2018.
"It's kind of special," Peeples said. "The rivalry has been going a while and the two towns get excited about it. More than the rivalry, I think we feel like we've worked really hard and we're looking forward to the game itself. We're not that big of a team and my biggest question mark was how well we'd do in the trenches. Last week against Kennedy, they had a bunch of 250-275-pound guys on their lines and we fought with them up front. So we feel good about that and we're ready to do it again on Friday."
Friday night's game will kick off at 7 p.m.