RIFLE (11-17-12) — “I know where we’ll be for Thanksgiving,” said Kiki Moeller after her brother Ryan scored six touchdowns in the first real challenge the undefeated Rifle Bears (12-0) have faced this season, overcoming a tenacious Roosevelt team, in a 48-34 quarterfinal playoff win.
So now the Moeller family knows it will spend part of its Thanksgiving holiday next Saturday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo for the 3A state semifinals because the East Eagles (10-2) won on the road in Delta 35-24. Last season’s runner-up, Silver Creek (10-2), will play Conifer (10-2, after defeating Eagle Valley 16-10) in the other semifinal game.
The Tri-Valley champion Rough Riders (7-5), who had won six in a row, came within one extra point of matching the number of points the stingy Bear defense had allowed in its first 11 games combined. Moeller, who has an incredible 11 touchdowns in the first two rounds of the playoffs, scored on the Bears’ first two possessions for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. That score came after Moeller intercepted Spencer Urban near midfield.
But Roosevelt, as it would four times in the afternoon, came back to within a touchdown with a nine-play, 72-yard drive. Urban scored from the one, but kicker Adam Ghesquiere’s extra point attempt was blocked by Tanner Quick. It took only two plays for Rifle to answer, when Moeller burst through the line and into open space for a 61 yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead. Urban led Roosevelt on a 10-play, 75 yard response — all on the ground, with Josh Semmler covering the final ten yards. Urban ran in the two-point conversion to close the deficit to 21-14 with 3:11 left in the quarter. Rifle was driving toward another score before halftime when Pete Sanchez intercepted Adam Rice’s pass at the Riders’ 5 yard line.
Rice would have his revenge, but first the Bear defense, which had allowed just five touchdowns and pitched six shutouts coming into this game, made its presence felt, despite yielding 221 yards rushing in the first half. Isaac Rider fumbled on Rifle’s first play after the third-quarter kickoff and Roosevelt recovered at the Bear 21. Urban had been freezing the Rifle defense with effective ball-faking, then running for 107-first half yards. Facing 4th-and-2, Urban went to the well once again, but was smothered for a loss. That was a sign of things to come, as the senior quarterback would be held to just seven yards in the second half.
On the next play after that defensive stand, Kellin Leigh made a leaping catch of a Rice pass over the middle at the 40, recovered his footing and escaped the pursuit to complete an 85-yard touchdown reception. The play appeared to restore Rifle’s two-TD margin, but a holding penalty, one of just two flags dropped against the Bears all game, wiped out the points and moved the ball back to the five yard line. No problem. Rice rolled right again, dropped a pass in the flat to Moeller and the senior, who has now scored 42 touchdowns this season, put a move on a defender at midfield and raced 95 yards for a 28-14 lead.
But the Rough Riders, showing the gumption of their namesake, again refused to let the game get away, going 70 yards on 9 plays, with Semmler scoring from the 10, to trail 28-21 at the 6:28 mark. The Bears quickly pushed the lead to 14 again, with Rice covering 60 of the 78 yards with three completions, two to Aaron Wagler for 50 yards and Moeller catching another flat pass for the score from the ten.
Roosevelt was forced to punt for the first time in the game, but so were the Bears on the following possession. A sack by Nick Kosht with an assist from Brock Clark and Javier Nunez forced another Rough Rider punt followed by perhaps the decisive play of the hotly-contested game: with the defense probably expecting a big dose of Moeller-up-the-middle, Rider took off around left end and outran all pursuers for an 82-yard score and the first real breathing room for the Bears in the game, a 42-21 lead with 7:15 left to play.
Once again the Rough Riders charged up their figurative San Juan Hill, driving 80-yards in 10 plays as Urban completed 6 of 7 passes and scored on a keeper from the one. The onside kick attempt failed, but, after a pair of Rifle first downs, a fourth-down pass completion came up two yards short, giving Roosevelt the ball with 1:43 left in the game. Urban again went to the air, hitting Mark Rios for 19 yards to midfield, then a pair of passes over the middle to Omar Rivera before Semmler caught an 18 yard touchdown with 45 ticks left on the clock. Ghesquiere again missed the extra point kick, however when the Rough Riders recovered the ensuing onside attempt at the Bear 47, they had a chance to possibly tie the game.
Urban hit Rios for 15 yards to the 32, then Rivera down to the 25, before spiking the ball to stop the clock with 16 seconds left. Then Mr. Touchdown halted the comeback and sealed the victory when he picked off his 8th pass of the season on a tipped ball, and went 90 yards the other way on the last play of the game.
Moeller also returned an interception last week for a touchdown, in addition to rushing for four other scores. In this game, he rushed for three more, along with 196 yards in 18 carries, and had three receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Rice completed 7 of 8 for 202 yards. Leigh had 46 yards on 13 attempts with Rider adding 89 yards in just three carries.
Urban completed 12 of 17 fourth-quarter passes, winding up with 213 yards on 15-of-23 for the game. He finished with 108 yards rushing in 21 attempts, leading the Rough Riders to 499 total yards for the game. But the Bear defense held them to just 65 yards on the ground in the second half.
The Pueblo East team the Bears will travel to face, won the Southern League, and features a 2,000-yard passer in Kurt Rode, who has thrown 20 touchdowns this season. The Eagles defeated Holy Family, 49-28 in the first round before winning at Delta. Rifle’s closest game prior to this quarterfinal win was a 21-0 win at Delta three weeks ago.