AIR FORCE ACADEMY — The Class 3A football state championship game ended in a 46-21 win for Palmer Ridge over the Erie Tigers on Saturday at the Air Force Academy.
The result wasn’t what the Tigers had hoped. Practically from the beginning, the game itself certainly didn’t play out how sophomore quarterback Dion Lucero was expecting.
On the third play of the game, Lucero ran up the middle and was tackled awkwardly, spraining his knee. After getting to run just three plays in the game he and the Tigers had battled all season long to reach, Lucero did not return.
“I really didn’t expect that to ever happen to me,” Lucero said. “I don’t really run the ball. I’m mainly a passer. Just the way I landed kind of affected me funny. I tried to go back out there but eventually, they took my helmet and it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Lucero spent most of the first half sitting perched atop a table on the sideline while he was being attended to by the Tigers’ trainer. Coming out of the halftime break, he tried to warm up multiple times and once the Tigers began to fall behind, he attempted to enter the game only to be denied because of the obvious risk of further injuring himself.
Typically, Lucero would team with fullback Jacob Mansdorfer and running back Noah Roper in the backfield to give the Tigers a multidimensional attack. Without his ability to throw the football, the Tigers’ passing game fell to Roper and the Palmer Ridge defense was able to overplay the running game.
“We had to put guys at spots that aren’t normally at those positions,” Cooper said. “We rep them, but they just doing get the reps they would normally get there, and it led to some mistakes. Part of that is on us, the coaching staff, because we had some delay calls, which is on me. It’s just tough when you have guys in different spots because now Noah was basically the quarterback for the whole game. Now, Jacob Mansdorfer is in a different spot.
“It just had this waterfall effect. The kids still did a great job of competing. They put up 21 points through the middle of the third quarter, the bottom just fell out there after the blocked punt and we just didn’t really recover from that.”
Lucero passed for 710 yards on 77 attempts during the regular season. He rushed for one yard in the championship game.