ERIE — After nearly two decades of an unrelenting rushing attack, the Erie football team was eager to display its new look Friday night.
A lengthy touchdown pass on the first offensive play of the season did the trick.
It wasn’t a stretch-the-field bomb to be clear, but a swing pass from Chantz Schenbeck that B.J. Jensen turned into a 57-yard score. It got the Tigers off to the start they wanted — and the Chris Summers era off to a smashing success — in a 23-10 Class 3A nonleague win against visiting Glenwood Springs.
Schenbeck, a junior who won the QB job from a flock of five competitors, threw three TDs overall, including a pair to classmate Luke Conilogue.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young men than I am right now,” Summers said. “They worked hard all summer long. We pushed them and they responded tonight.”
What stood out most was the performance, as the Tigers did a commendable job of corralling Demons sophomore quarterback Dante Sparaco, who already has an offer from Colorado State and is attracting major Division-I interest.
Summers, a longtime offensive coordinator at Holy Family, replaced 18-year head coach Larry Gartrell in the offseason after Gartrell, who operated the wing offense and engineered Erie’s state title run in 1997, resigned. Summers’ spread offense promised more fireworks, and Erie delivered.
Schenbeck connected with Conilogue on a picturesque 28-yard touchdown late in the first half. Schenbeck threw a deep out along the right sideline, and Conilogue outmuscled a Glenwood defender and escaped to the end zone.
That put Erie ahead 17-0 with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining in the half.
The pair connected again on five-yard score early in the second half after Glenwood Springs’ punter went to the turf to scoop up a low snap and was ruled to have his knee down.
“It was everything I imagined,” Schenbeck said. “My line held up really well and our receivers did their job. Everything fell into place.”
The Erie defense swarmed the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Sparaco in his initial start behind center, as Conilogue, Wesley Brow, Triston Berringer and others limited his running lanes. It took Sparaco 29 rushing attempts to get his 81 yards, a total that included a four-yard touchdown in the waning moments. He also threw for 70 yards.
“They were coming hard and they really filled the gaps,” Sparaco said. “Their defense was really kicking our (rear) up front in the first half and we couldn’t find an answer to that.”
The defensive effort was more impressive in that key linebacker Elijah Roper was not in the lineup. The senior was on the sidelines in his No. 8 jersey.
For the Tigers, it was pleasant simply to get back on their home turf. They played only one home game last season after floods twice made the surface unplayable. Erie had been forced to play home games at Frederick and Mead, but things are off to a much smoother start in that regard this season.
Each team had a long TD wiped out. A 99-yard run by Sparaco late in the third quarter was reduced to a 24-yard run after an inadvertent whistle. An apparent 80-yard score by Jensen early in the fourth was called back because of a holding penalty.
Follow Paul on Twitter: twitter.com/PaulWillis21
Erie 23, Glenwood Springs 10
At Erie HS
Erie (1-0) 7 10 6 0 — 23
Glenwood Springs (0-1) 0 3 0 7 — 10
Erie — B.J. Jensen 57 pass from Chantz Schenbeck (Kyle Haynes kick).
Erie — Haynes 31 FG. Erie — Luke Conilogue 28 pass from Schenbeck (Haynes kick). Glenwood Springs — Robert Hiles 30 FG.
Erie — Conilogue 5 pass from Schenbeck (kick failed).
Glenwood Springs — Dante Sparaco 4 run (Hiles kick).
RUSHING — Glenwood Springs: Sparaco 29-81, Marr 5-32, Prosence 6-3, Nieslanek 1-(minus 14). Erie: Jensen 22-51, Sanchez 1-0, Unruh 1-(minus 3), Schenbeck 4-(minus 18)
PASSING — Glenwood Springs: Sparaco 8-16-1-70. Erie: Schenbeck 7-9-0-110.
RECEIVING — Glenwood Springs: Gentry 3-21, Prosence 1-19, Marr 1-12, Townley 1-10, Nieslanek 1-8, Gaddis 1-0. Erie: Jensen 3-64, Conilogue 3-40, Loefler 1-6, Sanchez 1-0.