The Durango High School football team will face a Tigers team for the second week in a row and will again be tasked with stopping a great running back.
The Demons have faced a number of strong runners this season, and heading into last week’s first round game against Cañon City, DHS head coach David Vogt said every team in the playoffs is going to have a great running back. That was true against last week’s Tigers, and it’s certainly true this week when the No. 13 Demons (8-3) host No. 5 Erie (9-2) in the quarterfinals of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A Football Playoffs at noon Saturday at DHS.
Erie boasts the leading rusher in Class 3A and the third-leading rusher regardless of classification in Noah Roper.
Roper, a 6-foot, 195-pound junior, has run for 2,073 yards and 28 touchdowns behind a combination of speed and power.
“He’s the No. 1 running back in the state for a reason. He runs like Dawson (Marcum), but he looks like Max (Hyson),” Vogt said, comparing Roper to two of his own running backs. “Our game plan is to stop him. Everywhere he goes, we’re gonna have eyes on him and we’re gonna try to make someone else on their team beat us. But he’s pretty much single-handedly beat every team they’ve beaten this season. That’s what we’re gonna focus on, stopping him.”
Roper has accounted for nearly 62 percent of Erie’s offensive yards this season.
The Demons aren’t completely focused on stopping Roper, and they might not be able to – he has run for 100 or more yards in all but two games this season and Vogt said Roper will “get his yards.” But slowing him down, especially early in the game, could be enough to earn a victory.
“He’s kind of their whole team, and he’s a good player,” DHS senior lineman Ryan Barkley said of Roper. “He’s fast and big, and watching film on him, he runs a lot of people over, but I think we’re ready for him.
“I think it’s very important for us to get started early and hit them in the mouth, especially that running back. ... Last weekend, that’s what we did to (Cañon City’s Kadin Porter). Once we started hitting him and getting in his head, he started breaking down, and hopefully we can do the same thing to (Roper) this week.”
Durango and Erie have never met on the football field before, according to local football historian Dan Ford. Erie also has never traveled as far as the 358-mile road trip the Tigers will have to make to get to DHS. The Tigers’ longest road trip this season was a whopping 39-mile odyssey to Aurora.
The Demons’ offense has been rolling lately. During the team’s current five-game winning streak, the Demons have scored 35 points or more in each win and could be in for another high-scoring affair.
Erie’s defense is no slouch, as the Tigers have given up fewer than 20 points per game this season and only one team – No. 1 Mead – crack 30 points against the Tigers this season. But the defensive scheme of the Tigers is one the Demons have been able to exploit in recent weeks.
The Tigers run a straight-forward man-defense similar to Cañon City last week and Harrison the week before.
“They’re gonna do the same thing we’ve seen the last few weeks, so that’s gonna be nice,” Vogt said. “They’re gonna load the box, play man coverage and try to switch it up with a lot of different blitzes.”
Durango’s offense excelled against the defenses of Cañon City and Harrison. The Demons ran for a combined 433 yards and six rushing touchdowns in the two games, with junior running back Dawson Marcum accounting for 223 yards and three scores.
The Demons used the success on the ground to open up the air attack. In the two games, freshman quarterback Jordan Woolverton completed 24-of-33 pass attempts for 230 yards and four TDs against one interception.