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Erie High School football players run onto the field before the start of the game against Montrose High School during a Class 4A semifinal game in Erie on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. The Tigers defeated the Indians, 29-28 to advance in the playoffs. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Erie High School football players run onto the field before the start of the game against Montrose High School during a Class 4A semifinal game in Erie on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. The Tigers defeated the Indians, 29-28 to advance in the playoffs. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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This summer, BoCoPreps.com will take an early look at each area football team ahead of the fall season and in this installment, we look at the Erie Tigers.

Erie quarterback Blake Barnett can’t recount the number of times he’s replayed last year’s state title game in his head.

One of the state’s greatest football championships, played between the Tigers and Chatfield at Empower Field at Mile High last December, had everything a fan and competitor could want. Or, maybe even more to the point, could handle.

Big plays, lead changes — the game’s fate wouldn’t be decided until 11 seconds left in regulation. Not from the arm of Barnett, though (the Tigers’ ultimate playmaker who’d often made the spectacular look routine), but that of Chargers QB Jake Jones, who tossed a 32-yard TD to tight end Drew Rohlman for the win.

It still stings, Barnett said.

“Personally, I think about that game every day and night,” the QB said of Erie’s 41-34 Class 4A title game loss. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over that game.”

The lip-puckering truth is the Tigers’ lone loss of the season may for many seem to loom larger than their previous 13 straight wins. Negative bias after all is bred in the athletic arena where losses hurt more than victories bring joy.

The bigger picture is often harder to find in defeat. With the gift of time passed, though, Erie’s 2021 will also be remembered as it should. Spectacular.

It paved the way for a bright future ahead — as much so as any 4A program in the state. Below are a few things to know about Erie in 2022.

The stalwart

Barnett. The showstopper has already said enough with his dazzling play on the field. Kid’s a winner.

As of now, Barnett is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and is Colorado’s top 2024 prospect. After one year starting, he proved to be one of the high school game’s ultimate playmakers, and with warm wishes to the opposing defenders out there, he not only has 2022 at Erie ahead. But 2023, as well.

Barnett is coming off a season where he threw for 2,560 yards, rushed for 1,049 and scored a total of 51 TDs in 14 games. (He then won the 4A 100-meter dash and an 800-meter relay at the track and field championships in the spring). He has early offers from CU, CSU, Kansas State, Oregon State and Washington for football.

Over the summer, coach Jeff Giger said he’s been impressed with Barnett’s growth as a leader. He then commended the quarterback room in full, one that also includes talented senior Evan Rearick.

Star in the making

Senior Caden Lettis. Erie’s concessions has marketing gold awaiting with QB Barnett (B), Lettis (L) and potential starting running back Trey Khanna (T) in the fold. The Erie BLT. More bacon? Give me the Barnett special. Added lettuce? Lettis for 6.

The Southern Utah commit is more than his healthy namesake, though. He is a top-50 2023 prospect in Colorado per the recruiting site Prep Redzone. Last year, in fact, he caught 25 balls for 506 yards and eight touchdowns while playing with a broken thumb according to his coach.

Like he did in 2021, he’s expected to play both as a receiver and defensive back.

Solidifying a presence

Erie has state title hopes in 2022, Giger said, even as it graduated 21 seniors from last fall’s runner-up team.

Logan Gilmore and Jackson Clancy, the latter who was out with a torn ACL last year, are expected to be pivotal up front for the Tigers.

Khanna, who backed up all-state back Caleb Theisen, and played defensive back, also returns as part of the team’s core.

“I really believe we have enough talent to compete for it all at the end,” Giger said. “We’ll know by the time we get out of the schedule we have, that’s for sure.”

After its Aug. 26 opener against Ponderosa, Erie has 5A Mullen and last fall’s semifinals opponent Montrose in weeks two and three. Its league includes 2021 postseason teams Broomfield, Longmont and Loveland.

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