Kira Vos / Daily Camera
Kira Vos / For the Daily Camera
ERIE — Erie senior running back Noah Roper’s dazzling high school career is in the balance after suffering a gruesome-looking injury during Erie’s win in the Class 3A quarterfinals on Friday night.
Roper broke the 100-yard mark in the opening quarter and finished with 140 yards and two touchdowns before going down with 7:17 left in the third quarter. He gave a thumbs up to a stunned Erie crowd as he was carted away, and then came back to the sideline in the fourth draped over crutches and touting an air cast on his left leg.
No. 3 Erie (12-0), meanwhile, capped off a 34-0 win over No. 6 Green Mountain (9-3). Its senior leader, with a smile, cheered his team on from the sideline.
Afterward, Erie coach Chad Cooper called Roper questionable going forward. He said the senior went to get further evaluated after the game.
“We’ll know a lot more tomorrow,” Cooper said.
The win put Erie back into the 3A state semifinals for a second straight year. Next week, it’ll go on the road to face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between No. 2 Pueblo East and No. 7 Discovery Canyon in hopes of getting back to the title game. The Tigers lost to Palmer Ridge in the championship game in 2017.
The team says it’s ready to march forward — with or without its star player.
“Everyone just needs to do a little bit more,” senior Jaymeson Nelms said. “We had a good player go down, so we all need to pick up the pace and do a little bit of extra work. And that’s how we’re going to keep it rolling.”
Roper had seven carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. He scored on a 31-yard burst on his second touch and added a 36-yard score on his seventh to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead. Julian Custine made it 17-0 with a 34-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the half.
Then on the opening drive of the third, Roper pushed through defenders for extra yards and appeared to get his leg rolled up as he fell to the ground. He pounded the turf as coaches and trainers rushed around him.
The senior standout — still publicly uncommitted where he’ll play next season — moved into 11th on the state’s all-time rushing list (with more than 6,300 yards) and jumped to 11th on the all-time touchdowns mark (94), per CHSAA”s records that had not yet been updated online.
“It’s Noah Roper, best running back in the state,” senior Tyler Gardner said. “But we’re not a one-man team.”
The Tigers’ staunch defense stymied a Green Mountain offense that averaged just over 39 points per game over the previous four weeks. It was the unit’s second straight shutout after beating Durango 40-0 in the first round.
On the Rams’ first drive, they faked a punt after Nate Hackney’s tackle for loss on third-and-2 and came up short. On their next drive, a gang sack by Hackney and Nelms stopped them around midfield.
And in the second quarter, Green Mountain pushed inside the 40 on its best drive of the night before Nelms strip-sacked quarterback Trey Towndrow.
“Turnovers is what this defense is about,” Nelms said. “When plays need to be made, we make those plays.”
Gavin Mendoza finished off the drive following Roper’s injury with a score to push the lead to 24-0. Ian Vera made it 34-0 in the fourth as he picked off Towndrow and then scored on a short run moments later.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Erie 34, Green Mountain 0
At Erie HS
Green Mountain (9-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Erie — Noah Roper 31 run (Julian Custine kick). Erie — Roper 36 run (Custine kick).
Erie — Custine 34 field goal.
Erie — Gavin Mendoza 1 run (Custine kick).
Erie — Custine 35 field goal. Erie — Ian Vera 5 run (Custine kick).
RUSHING — Green Mountain: Meinert 13-16, Towndrow 11-54, Chavez 1-3. Erie: Roper 19-140, Mendoza 8-59, Gardner 8-19, Lucero 6-30, Crooks 4-5, Vera 1-5, Piper 1-3.
PASSING — Green Mountain: Towndrow 6-15-0-73. Erie: Mendoza 5-8-0-73 Lucero 2-5-0-25.
RECEIVING — Green Mountain: Corkin 2-38, Tafoya 2-8, Meinert 1-20, Padilla 1-7. Erie: Fuhrmann 3-31, Gardner 1-39, Khanna 1-16, Nelms 1-7, McDonald 1-5.