FORT COLLINS – Two years ago, Blake Barnett got so close to winning a Class 4A football championship he could taste it. A year ago, he was eliminated in the semifinals, yet somehow felt like he got even closer.

In his third try as the full-time starting quarterback for Erie, his hunt was completed. In the first half alone, Barnett threw for one score, ran for another and halted Palmer Ridge’s first real hopes of putting points on the board with an interception as the Tigers mauled their way to a 20-6 win at Canvas Stadium on Saturday.

This is Erie’s second football state championship in program history and first since 1997 when it beat West Grand 42-14 to claim the 1A title.

But for Barnett and his fellow seniors, this has been building for the last three seasons.

“I think I’m finally free from the demons from the last two years,” Barnett said. “This is the best thing that could have possibly happened.”

The Tigers slowed the Bears’ first drive of the game at midfield and a 48-yard field goal attempt from Rhett Armstrong was pulled wide left. Then Barnett got to work. He marched the Tigers (13-1 overall) into the red zone before finding Josh Levine for an 11-yard touchdown pass. After forcing a Palmer Ridge punt, Barnett capped the next drive with a 5-yard rushing touchdown to make it 13-0.

(Doug Ottewill/

Regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the state, Barnett’s full range of his offensive skillset was on display early.

But he took a quick chance to remind everyone in attendance that the’s a two-way player. The Bears (13-1) finally found some momentum on offense as they kept the ball on the ground for almost all of their third drive of the game.

The one pass attempt from Derek Hester came on 4th and 5 from the 10-yard line and it was Barnett picking it off and returning the ball to midfield.

“Our defensive staff did such a great job of putting the plan together,” coach Jeff Giger said. “And then the kids just executed, executed, executed. [Jimmer Wier] got one behind us but they did a really good job of controlling him and obviously the quarterback is such a good runner but we did a great job of keeping him under control.”

The Weir touchdown reception was for 30 yards on a beautiful ball from Hester and cut the Erie lead to 13-6.

(Doug Ottewill/

The scariest moment of the game came on an awkward tackle when Barnett was broke for a quarterback keeper. He briefly exited the game to get his ankle taped so he could get out there for another series or two.

“I heard something pop,” he said. “So something’s not right.”

A 32-yard touchdown run from Braylon Toliver got the Erie lead back to two touchdowns, all but keeping the game out of reach for Palmer Ridge.

For good measure, the Tigers killed two Palmer Ridge drives with interceptions, the second of which allowed Barnett to gingerly walk on the field one last time to take three knees to solidify the state championship win.

“Offensively we were hitting some things with the running backs that he could go out there and hand it off,” Giger said. “And obviously he’s still a threat with his arm.”

He’s been a dual threat quarterback since he started suiting up for Erie. For three years he has been one of the top quarterbacks in the state. He’ll graduate and head to Kansas State next month with the weight of playoff failures removed from his shoulders.

(Doug Ottewill/