Erie High School senior running back Noah Roper simply could not be stopped Saturday.
He rushed for 263 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 40-0 win for the No. 3 Tigers over No. 14 Durango in the first round of the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A State Football Playoffs.
“You can’t stop (Roper) and can only hope to contain him,” said Durango head coach David Vogt. “We did all we could to try and limit him in the way that we tackled him, but, eventually, he was going to break free. After that, it was all about finding ways to score and stay in the game.”
It was the second consecutive season that Roper and the Tigers (11-0) ended the Demons’ season. Last year, in the quarterfinals in Durango, Roper ran for 209 yards and four touchdowns in 35-28 win for the Tigers. Erie went onto the state championship game and fell to Palmer Ridge.
Roper, a Division I recruit with an offer from Air Force along with top Division II offers from Colorado School of Mines and CSU-Pueblo, ran for 174 yards in the first half alone on 19 carries. On the first play from scrimmage, Roper ran 61 yards and was finally dragged down at the DHS 19-yard line. But, two plays later, DHS would get a glimmer of hope as he made a rare mistake and fumbled the football. The Demons recovered at the 11-yard line. It was only Roper’s second turnover of the season.
Durango (6-5) and its offense had spurts of sporadic success on the day, including its first possession, as it racked up 71 yards and gained four first downs. But the Demons committed four penalties, and sophomore quarterback Jordan Woolverton was intercepted by Erie senior cornerback Kaleb Fuhrmann at the 21-yard line of Erie. The Tigers went on an 11-play drive the remainder of the first quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Roper scored his first touchdown of the game with a 1-yard run. The extra point was missed, and it was 6-0 with 11:57 remaining in the second quarter.
The following Demon possession resulted in a punt, and Erie got the ball back with 8:58 remaining in the half. The Tigers went 12 plays and took 6:24 off of the game clock. It resulted in another Roper score from close range, this time from the 2-yard line.
“Turnovers and penalties were huge and, unfortunately, a back-breaker for us today,” Vogt said. “We had four penalties on that first drive. I thought we really had our opportunities in the first few possessions of the game, and we had to score. We just had to put some points on the board early, but turnovers killed us.”
Durango again had a long drive that ended too soon. Woolverton was intercepted at the Erie 30-yard line with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. Erie took a knee and went into the break with a 13-0 lead.
The Demons had 113 total yards at the half, and Woolverton led DHS with 35 rushing yards, while senior running back Dawson Marcum had 24. Woolverton was 3-of-6 passing for 43 yards and two interceptions.
In the second half, Durango’s offense would continue to stall, as the Demons punted every possession in the quarter. On the first possession of the second half for DHS, a punt snap was dropped by the Demons’ punter, and the Tigers recovered in Demon territory.
Erie junior quarterback Dion Lucero would capitalize with a rushing touchdown of his own to make it 19-0.
Roper would put the exclamation point on the game with his third rushing touchdown of the game to make it 26-0 in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Erie senior free safety and running back Tyler Gardner added two touchdowns, and the second resulted in a running clock at 40-0. It was the seventh time the Tigers started the running clock on the season.
Durango committed two more turnovers in the fourth quarter, one fumble and an interception late, and finished the day with four on the afternoon.
With Roper’s performance, he surpassed 2,000 rushing yards and now has more than 6,000 career rush yards. He also 35 rushing touchdowns this season. The Tigers finished the game with 413 yards of total offense and had more than 350 yards on the ground.
Erie will host No. 6 Green Mountain next week in the quarterfinals.
Vogt’s team played a brutal schedule and had to face one of the state’s top teams in the first round. The Demons battled injuries all year, especially going into Saturday’s game.
“Football gives us and these kids so many life lessons, and I told them it was a pleasure to coach them every day,” Vogt said. “The brotherhood that was built can never be taken away from them, and, no matter what, we will always be family.”