Football: Erie takes in media day ahead of title game

Tigers face off with Chatfield for state crown on Saturday

John Pastore (left) and Ryan McConnell speak to the media at Empower Field at Mile High on Tuesday morning ahead of Erie football's Class 4A state championship matchup on Saturday.
John Pastore (left) and Ryan McConnell speak to the media at Empower Field at Mile High on Tuesday morning ahead of Erie football’s Class 4A state championship matchup on Saturday.

DENVER — The last time Erie football stepped foot onto Empower Field at Mile High, the boys were competing in a summer tournament. It didn’t turn out the way they had hoped.

They vowed it would be different next time.

“We actually played here in a 7-on-7 tournament and in the semifinals, we lost to Fairview,” senior Jaylen Klickna said. “We told ourselves that we were going to be back here to play in the state championship and that’s everything we’ve worked for. We were so excited to get the opportunity to be able to play here this summer and we all knew that the goal was to be back here on Saturday, playing for a state championship.”

The fifth-seeded Tigers achieved that goal with a stunning 29-28 victory over Montrose in the semifinals of the Class 4A state playoffs last Saturday. This upcoming Saturday, they’ll go to war against No. 7 Chatfield for the title game. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.

On Tuesday morning, the team was able to tour the facility ahead of their first state championship appearance since 2017 before meeting with the media for a professional football-style press conference.

“We got to walk around the facilities, really just see what it’s like to play as an NFL player,” senior Ryan McConnell said. “We got to see the locker rooms we’re going to be able to be in. We got to see the field, see what the grass is like since it’s different from playing on a high school turf field or high school-level grass field. I think it was cool for us to see all that and really just enjoy this whole experience.”

To date, the Tigers haven’t faced an opponent that they couldn’t defeat. Top-seeded Montrose certainly gave them a run for their money, but excellent play-calling and execution ultimately turned the tides in Erie’s favor throughout the final minutes of the contest.

That was quite a turnaround for a team that hasn’t been challenged like that all season long.

“Our confidence is at the max it’s been,” senior John Pastore said. “We’ve played great teams along the way through the playoffs and we’ve made it to the state championship game. I don’t think we could be more confident than we’ve been right now for this game against Chatfield.”

The Chargers, of course, will pose their own challenges to the Tigers as they enter the state title game with a couple of comeback wins of their own. They fell to Pine Creek and Dakota Ridge earlier in the season only to defeat them weeks later in the playoffs.

The Tigers will have to watch out for a team that’s improved that much that quickly.

“It’s super exciting and all that but at the end of the day, it’s still just a football game,” senior Caleb Theisen said. “We get to play one more time with each other, with our brothers, and so if we boil it down, it’s just a football game. If we keep playing our same game, I think we’ll do really well.”