ERIE — Nathan Mackey put the game on ice.
No. 1 Mead, which entered the game outscoring opponents 354-78, beat No. 4 Erie 42-28 to move to 9-0 this season.
"We go one week at a time," Mackey said. "As soon as we have the next team on the schedule, we keep rolling. The resiliency of this team is amazing. They came after us. We got down, they got up, we got back up again."
Mackey's 41-yard touchdown run to put Mead up 42-28 — his third of the night — came after Mead recovered a fumble on the kickoff.
"I was just trying not to get caught from behind," Mackey said. "I get so much crap for getting caught from behind. When I scored, it was a great feeling. I had to go give my linemen a hug. I thought we got the win after that."
A 37-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Keys to Dom Esters gave Mead the lead with 2:48 left in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball bounced off the chest of an Erie player on the front line and into the hands of the Mead kickoff team.
"Sometimes the ball bounces your way, sometimes it bounces their way," Mead coach Jason Klatt said. "That one, it bounced our way."
The swing came at an opportune time as Erie came back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game.
"The best part about it was how we battled," Klatt said. "We came up against some adversity and we handled the adversity. We haven't been in a whole lot of battles, and that was a battle. That was really good for us."
Down 28-14, Erie put up two touchdowns. Jacob Mansdorfer ran in the first touchdown, then Erie took advantage of a Mead fumble to erase the Mead lead. Noah Roper's 9-yard touchdown run tied the game at 28.
With Erie facing a fourth down and six earlier in the quarter, Mead stopped the Tigers short of the first down marker.
On the opening play of the Mead drive after taking over on downs, Jake Wachter shot down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown to put the Maverick up 28-14.
On the previous drive, Mead went to Mackey twice in a row inside the one-yard-line.
After being stuffed, Mead went right back to Mackey, and Mackey punched it in to give the Maverick a 21-14 lead.
"We knew we would have to lean on our senior leaders," Klatt said. "Nathan has been carrying us for three years. We wanted the ball in his hands late."
Erie's Noah Roper returned the ensuing kickoff to the other side of the 50, down to the 28.
But, the Mead defense held tough with the fourth down stop.
Erie fed Roper on the opening drive and marched down for the score. Roper ran it in from one yard out after eating up about seven minutes.
Mead responded on the next drive with a 12-yard touchdown run by Keys.
Then, Roper got back to work. The junior took a handoff 51 yards down inside the five yard line, then finished it off with a physical touchdown run.
Roper had one man to beat, and went right through him as he bowled the defender over.
With about two minutes before the half, Mead wasted no time in responding yet again. The Maverick took just six plays to even the game.
Nathan Mackey's 31-yard touchdown run tied it up at 14 before the half was over.
"That was the fastest first half that I've ever had," Klatt said. "I was thinking, we only had three possessions in the first half, and we turned the ball over on one of them. We needed to maximize our possessions."
Erie was unable to turn a turnover early in the third quarter into points. Nathan Hackney set up the Erie drive with a diving interception as quarterback Tyler Keys was hit as he threw and the ball popped up into the air.
Mead forced an Erie punt and took over at the 26, before distancing itself for the win.
Mead will play Berthoud next week with a shot at going undefeated.
"Every game this year has been harder and harder and harder. Every single one," Mackey said. "It's been a ladder, and this is the hardest one. Next one we have is going to be hard. When we come out and do good against good teams, it helps us with our confidence."