RIFLE (8/30/13) – Rifle’s season of perfection fell one game short when the Bears lost for the first time in the 3A state championship game to Silver Creek last year. For nine months, whether in spring drills, summer workouts, the weight room, and August two-a-days, that final, bitter pill remained with the returning Rifle players and coaches.
So when the Bears finally lined it up for real in the 2013 season opener, that frustration came roaring over the 2A Coal Ridge Titans like a tidal wave. Up 33-0 after one quarter and reaching the 40-point mercy rule running clock with 10 minutes to play in the first half, the Bears rolled over the Titans, 54-6.
One of the questions the Bears had to answer after last season was: with 3A Colorado Player of the Year Ryan Moeller and his 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns walking on at CU, how would Kellin Leigh, who had over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, do on his own?
Answer: Leigh touched the football five times in the first quarter and scored four touchdowns, for a total of 92 yards in just 4 carries. Oh, and about being on his own — junior Brock Clark proved to be an able running mate, leading the Bears’ 316-yard ground attack with 144 yards in 6 carries, half of which went for touchdowns.
Junior Layton Stutsman stepped into the starting quarterback role, completing 3-of-5 passes for 63 yards, a 25-yard scoring strike to Leigh, and ran in the Bears’ final score in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 54-0.
For the unfortunate victims who awakened the angry, hibernating Bear, things began as badly as could be, but ended with a promise of a better dawn tomorrow. On the second play from scrimmage, Titan running back Max Bettle had to be helped off the field with an injured knee.
Sophomore Trevor Wade replaced starting QB Jerome Pizzelli following the injury time-out and threw the first of what would be 11 consecutive incomplete passes. The 4th-down snap to went past the punter to the Coal Ridge 5 yard line. One play later, Leigh was in the end zone.
Following another 3-and-out Leigh burst through the left side of the line and completed a 55-yard gallop for a 13-0 lead, with 7:50 to go in the quarter. Wyatt Kinion intercepted Wade moments later and Stutson connected with Austin Knight for 31 yards into Titan territory. Leigh capped that drive by driving through a huge whole on the right side for a 27-yard TD and a 19-0 lead with 6:04 left in the period.
The Titans’ Edgar Enriquez — the visitors used 3 punters — got off a booming 40-yard punt for a touchback, but Clark got into the scoring column by sweeping to the left sideline and sprinting 80 yards for the touchdown. Eduardo Sandoval, who converted 6 of 8 PAT’s, made it 26-0 with 3:38 left. A low sanp to Enriquez on 4th down forced him to lose 8 yards to his own 25, setting up a beautiful 25-yard pass from Stutsman to Leigh with 2:49 to go.
Before the quarter mercifully ended, Stutsman followed Austin Boone and Austin Shepherd into the secondary for a 63-yard TD, but a holding call brought it back. No matter. Javier Nunez broke loose for 20 yards, and three plays later, Clark scored from the 11, triggering the 40-point running clock with just under 11 minutes to go in the first half. Clark scored again from the 11 after a blocked punt for a 47-0 halftime lead.
The Bears had another touchdown, a 42-yard pass to Bailey Hoffmeister, called back on their opening possession in the third quarter, but once again overcame the penalty on runs by Hoffmeister and Nunez for 1st-and-goal, setting up Stutsman’s sneak from the three.
Sophomore Ethan Strouse came in the quarterback the Bears after that. By the way, Leigh never touched the football after the first quarter.
The Titans turned the ball over with a fumble and Wade’s third interception, but the Bears’ second unit hurt itself with penalties and couldn’t capitalize. On what would have been the last play of the game, the Titans’ Rio Diedrich was injured and the Bears were called for pass interference.
With time expired, Wade was given one last chance and made the most of it with a beautiful 27-yard throw to the left corner of the end zone, spectacularly caught by Pizzelli to get the Titans on the scoreboard. That combination clicked four times for 101 yards in the game, showing promise for the near future. Wade finished 7-of-24 for 159 yards, but the running game was held to just 3 yards in 12 attempts.
The Rifle offensive line, including Boone, Shepherd, Clayton Coombs, Brayden Smith, Alex Gould, Tanner Quick and Clinton Farr, helped the Bears toa 379 total offense. The Bears will host Moffat County in the league opener next Friday.