Football: Erie’s pass defense likely to be tested against Evans

  • Brad Cochi /

    Erie's Eddie Pena, No. 30, brings down an interception during the Tigers semifinal win over Longmont last Saturday. Erie will be tested by Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans, considered the top QB recruit in the state for the class of 2019.

  • Brad Cochi /

    The Erie Tigers will battle Palmer Ridge Saturday for the Class 3A state championship.



The Erie football team has come up against some pretty good Class 3A quarterbacks this year, including but not limited to Berthoud’s Brock Voth and Centaurus’ Nick Faraca.

When the Tigers take the field on Saturday at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium to play Palmer Ridge, however, they’ll be staring into the facemask of Colorado’s top recruit at the position for the Class of 2019.

That’s a daunting task with the Class 3A state championship on the line.

The Bears’ Ty Evans recently re-opened his college options after de-committing from the University of Arkansas when the Razorbacks fired their head coach, Brett Bielema. Odds are, several other Division I schools are waiting in the wings.

After throwing for 3,130 yards as a sophomore with 30 touchdown passes, Evans this year has thrown for 3,318 yards with 39 scoring tosses in 13 games. He’ll enter Saturday second in the entire state in passing and needs only 88 yards to pass Fairview’s Aidan Atkinson as the top yardage QB in 2017.

He is legit, and Erie head coach Chad Cooper has already logged plenty of hours watching film — hoping his players have done the same early on this week as they prepare for the 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff.

“If you watch film on him, you can see why he’s getting that publicity,” Cooper said Tuesday night. “He’s tough to stop, and it starts with his frame. He’s tall and lengthy and that allows him to sit in the pocket and look over the top. But when he gets out of the pocket he is athletic and can throw on the run with a strong arm.”

This past week in the semifinals, Erie allowed 229 passing yards to Longmont — which was about 100 more yards than what the Trojans had been averaging for the season.

Game situations play significantly into numbers throughout the year, obviously, but that was one of the few games this year the Tigers (11-2) have allowed a team to go way over its game average through the air. The others were the season opener against Vista PEAK and at Roosevelt — the team’s first loss of the year in Week 8.

Conversely, they held Pueblo East’s Luc Andrada — a highly regarded quarterback in the classification — to just 103 yards in the opening round of the playoffs and kept Voth to 162 yards in a Week 6 win over the Spartans.

“On the back end we have had some guys step up, and obviously we have Noah Roper patrolling at safety and taking away the middle of the field a lot,” Cooper said. “But there’s Alex Mathis at one corner who has been tasked with taking away the best threat. He was on (Longmont’s Nick Paone) last week and we’ve just kind of done that a little bit through the playoffs.

“Auguson Saless actually went out with an injury before Pueblo East, but he’s going to be back for us on Saturday and we’ll see how much we’ll be able to use him. But Eddie Pena also did a great job filling in for him during the playoffs. They’ve done a good job of keeping things in front of them.”

Keeping Evans at his average probably isn’t going to be enough to slow the offense of the undefeated Bears (13-0), and Cooper said a lot of things have to come together including getting as much pressure on him as possible.

Similar to Fairview, the Bears like to throw quickly under the coverage and to the edges and let their receivers scamper around with blockers ahead of them. At the same time, Cooper said Evans can lace throws through tight windows and likes to hit receivers 15 yards downfield, too.

Give him time, and Evans will find someone’s hands. His top targets include Cory McLellen (54 receptions, 818 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Anthony Roberson (66/1,352/10).

Coming up with those blitz and coverage packages are a top priority through the rest of the week until Friday, when the Tigers will head down to Colorado Springs and stay overnight.

“They like to get their fast and athletic guys the ball quickly and that makes it hard to put that pressure, so it will be important to change our looks everywhere so he’s not seeing the same thing every time,” Cooper added. “My hope is we can get some pressure up the middle, because that’s one thing we’ve seen in the past that might make him a little uncomfortable.”

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