GREELEY — Two weeks ago, the Erie football team overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to defeat Skyline.
This was the flip side of that.
Facing a stern test at No. 8 Northridge on Saturday night, the fifth-ranked Tigers let a 16-point intermission advantage slip away in a 42-28 Class 3A nonleague loss to the Grizzlies.
Of greater concern, senior fullback Ryne Atkins endured what appeared to be a gruesome left-ankle injury in the third quarter. Atkins is widely regarded as the heart and soul of the Tigers.
“They took him to the hospital,” Tigers coach Larry Gartrell said. “It’s not looking very good.”
Things were much rosier for Erie (4-1) in the early going. The Tigers appeared in control when they darted to a 28-12 lead at the break, compliments of two rushing touchdowns by Joey Ramey, one by B.J. Jensen and a 35-yard interception return by Pedro Anderson.
Northridge (5-0), though, came out firing in the second. They blitzed Erie 30-0 in the final two quarters, as Grizzlies quarterback Robert Fulton threw for 200 of his 302 yards and all three of his touchdowns after the break.
Included were two 11-yard strikes to Brad Marx in the opening minutes of the third quarter that effectively zapped the Tigers’ momentum.
“We’ve talked about playing four quarters, and obviously we didn’t play four quarters tonight,” Gartrell said. “Like I told the kids, first half we made the plays when we had to. Second half, we didn’t.”
Erie was clinging to a 28-26 lead when Atkins was injured on a 5-yard run up the middle, and the Tigers tried to persevere. The blow (Atkins entered with a team-best 443 rushing yards) was impossible to fully ignore, however, with the game in the balance.
“Of course. I mean, Ryne was a playmaker,” Erie quarterback Tristan Lyle said. “We have good backups. We tried just to put it in the back of our heads and keep on trucking.”
While Erie’s offense was continuing to move the ball — albeit not at the same rate as in the first half — the chief issue was that the Tigers simply couldn’t stop Northridge.
Fulton hit Marx for a 66-yard completion on the first play of the second half, immediately reversing the tone of the Erie-dominant first. Marx and tight end Michael Graff each finished with five receptions for 125 yards for the Grizzlies.
“I think we just came out with a lot of intensity in the second half,” Graff said. “Sometimes we start a little slow. … They played a lot of man (coverage) in the second half and we just made plays.”
Forced to pass more than usual, Lyle completed 6 of 11 passes for 83 yards. His finest strike of the night came in the first half, when he connected with Anderson for 39 yards on a third-and-17 play to set up Ramey’s second touchdown.
“They changed their defensive scheme and we came out flat,” Lyle said. “We thought they were just going to roll over and we didn’t follow through with it.”
The contest began 29 minutes late after a brief lightning storm swept through the area. The fast-moving cell quickly vanished east, leaving a small amount of precipitation in its wake.
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NORTHRIDGE 42, ERIE 28
At District 6 Stadium
Erie (4-1) 14 14 0 0 — 28
Northridge (5-0) 12 0 22 8 — 42
Northridge — Cody Cook 1 run (kick failed).
Erie — Joey Ramey 11 run (Ethan Mezler kick).
Erie — Pedro Anderson 35 interception return (Mezler kick).
Northridge — Robert Fulton 1 run (pass failed).
Erie — Ramey 3 run (Mezler kick).
Erie — B.J. Jensen 3 run (Mezler kick).
Northridge — Brad Marx 11 pass from Fulton (Marx pass from Fulton).
Northridge — Brad Marx 11 pass from Fulton (pass failed). Northridge — Fulton 2 run (Michael Graff pass from Fulton).
Northridge — Blake Karlin 3 pass from Fulton (Cook run).
First downs 14 15
Rushes-yards 45-204 26-88
Passing yards 83 302
Comp-Att-Int 6-11-0 16-27-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 9-42 5-35
RUSHING — Erie: Ramey 11-85, Mickey 7-42, Jensen 9-32, Atkins 9-28, Anderson 7-24, Lyle 2-(-7); Northridge: Cook 19-72, Fulton 7-16.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yards) — Erie: Lyle 6-11-0, 83 yards; Northridge: Fulton 16-27-1, 302 yards.
RECEIVING — Erie: Anderson 2-53, Jensen 2-11, Tallman 1-18, Ramey 1-2; Northridge: Graff 5-125, Marx 5-125, Cook 3-43, Karlin 2-10, Werner 1-4.