KMTS FOOTBALL: BEARS’ SECOND-HALF DEFENSE PREVENTS RIVALRY UPSET

RIFLE (9/21/18) – Despite its status as a perennial 3A playoff power, the Rifle Bears football team is competing in the 2A Western Slope League this season. But the long-standing rivalry with Glenwood Springs knows no classification boundaries – only that the Bears had won seven straight games since a 20-19 Demon win in 2010.

Facing second-and-two at the Rifle seven-yard-line and already leading 7-0, the Demons were poised to deliver an early message halfway through the first quarter. Sam Fitzwilliams recovered a fumble on the Bears’ first play after Miguel Herrera’s 79-run had given Glenwood the early advantage, but Herrera gave it back, fumbling at the Bear six.

Given a reprieve, running backs Levi Warfel and Tanner Vines made the most of it. The junior Warfel gained 13 and Vines 12 when the senior Vines, who had topped 2,000 yards with 19 TD’s a year ago, broke out of a pack at the line of scrimmage and galloped 56 yards before Gavin Olson caught him at the Demon 13.

Warfel finished the drive, going the final 10 to tie the score on Eddie Ruiz’ point-after with 3:08 left in the quarter. After a 3-and-out, Glenwood had another golden opportunity when Rifle again lost a fumble on its 30, but a 15-yard penalty on first down put the Demons in a first-and-25 hole they couldn’t dig out of. Glenwood coach Pat Engle warned of the limits “self-inflicted wounds” might cause his team in a pre-game interview with KMTS: “Our offense doesn’t do too well on first-and-15; we’re better on 2nd-and-6.”

The ensuing punt went into the end zone, and Rifle put together a classic smash-mouth, ground drive, covering 80 yards in ten plays and grinding up 5:13 on the clock. Talon Cordova accounted for 18 yards, trading rushes with Vines, who chewed up 28 yards until he broke loose from the 30 for the go-ahead score with 6:47 to go in the half.

Glenwood struck back quickly when junior Dylan Albright relieved senior QB Max Lemkau, and Wyatt Ewer took a tipped pass 71 yards to pay dirt. Sebastian Torres’ extra point kick knotted the score at 14 with 6:23 remaining, but Rifle regained the lead on the following possession.

Kenny Tlaxcala thought about letting the kickoff roll into the end zone, but taking the ball at the one yard line, returned it 40 yards. Junior quarterback Holden Stutsman gained 19 to the Demon 43, with Vines going 22 yards to the 21 on the next play. Warfel finished the drive from the 11 with his second TD at the 3:19 mark.

Herrera earned Glenwood two first downs on the ground, but Warfel and his senior brother Wyatt sacked Albright inside the Bear 40 and a 4th-down pass fell incomplete as the halftime horn sounded.

In contrast to the high-scoring, quick-response first half, the final 24 minutes saw each team manage just one possession per quarter. Both squads failed on downs after moving the chains three times each in a scoreless third period.

With Glenwood trailing by a single score, Levi Warfel gave the Bears some breathing room two minutes into the final quarter, breaking free from the Demon 44 for his third touchdown of the game. The kick was partially blocked and sailed under the crossbar, leaving a glimmer of hope for the visitors.

Lemkau converted a 4th-and-8 under pressure to Herrera for 9 yards, but Ethan Mackley and Levi Warfel sacked Albright on back-to-back plays, handing the ball to Rifle with 5:32 left in the game. Warfel and Vines extinguished the Demons’ chances, using up the remainder of the game, helped by an offsides penalty against the defense on a fourth down play with 3:02 left.

Vines led all rushers with 202 yards on 21 carries; Warfel added 122 on 14 attempts. Overall, the Bears had 379 yards on the ground, along with 16 first downs, and 4 touchdowns. Rifle attempted just two passes, both incomplete.

Herrera, who has primarily played defense this year after scoring nine touchdowns last season, filled in nicely for the ineligible Luke Gair, gaining 137 yards on 15 runs, Olson running for 57 on 13 tries. Albright and Lemkau combined to complete 3-of-9 passes for 89 yards.

The Homecoming win gives Rifle a 4-0 non-conference mark as they approach the 2A Western Slope opener at Coal Ridge, September 28. Glenwood falls to 1-3 and will travel to Roosevelt for its final non-league game next Friday.

About Jack Jabbour

High school sports analyst
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