They knew they'd be here. They knew it not just when the playoffs started, or even this season for that matter. You'd have to go back 12 months on the calendar, to a point where one would think their confidence would be at its lowest.
"We lost to Mead last year (in the first round of the playoffs)," Palmer Ridge sophomore Anthony Roberson ii said. "Right when that happened, I knew we were going to win a state title."
One year and 14 straight victories later, that belief came true. With a convincing 46-21 victory over No. 5 Erie on Saturday, the No. 2 seeded Palmer Ridge Bears capped off a perfect season with a state championship in class 3A.
"I felt like I was in a dream," Roberson said. "I knew we were supposed to be here. We were supposed to be in this position. It still feels like a dream, but I know it's reality."
The game was a matchup of possibly the two best 3A football players in the state at their respective positions: Erie running back Noah Roper and Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans.
Both juniors put together solid performances, but Evans and the high-powered Bears offense were almost impossible to stop. In front of a great crowd at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Palmer Ridge scored more than 40 points for the 11th time this season.
Evans--who just last week decommitted from the University of Arkansas--finished the game with three touchdown passes and one score on the ground.
"Just knowing all the hard work we've put in, all the sacrifices that we and the coaches have made, when the clock hit zero I just wanted to hug somebody," Evans said.
He and Roberson connected for two touchdowns in the first half alone, including a 60-yard strike on the team's first offensive snap of the game to go up 7-0 right away.
That lead grew to 14-0 rather quickly, before Roper and the Tigers came roaring back.
The junior back pummeled his way into the end zone for his team's first score from 4 yards out, and then even threw a 25-yard touchdown rolling to his left to Jacob Mansdorfer. It was a key 4th down play in the second quarter to tie things up at 14 a piece.
But, the Bears added two late scores before halftime--a 70-yard TD pass to Roberson, and after a sack and fumble deep in Erie territory, Raef Ruel found the end zone to make it 26-14 Palmer Ridge heading into the locker room at halftime.
Roper added another rushing TD to make it 26-21 in the third quarter, but the Bears responded with 20 straight points, including a blocked punt they recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to essentially put the game away.
The Palmer Ridge bears finished the season with a spotless 14-0 record, while Erie completes 2017 11-3 overall.
Both programs appear set for strong seasons next year, as Roper and Evans both return as seniors in 2018.