RIFLE (11/3/18) – In an on-field interview prior to Rifle’s 27-0 first round 2A playoff win over Eaton, coach Zac Lemon of the Reds responded to a question on how to stop the Bears: “It’s hard to find an answer for teams that ‘Do what we do, and do it better than you.’”
For most of Saturday’s contest, Lemon’s tenth-rated team did a pretty good job – aside from one first-half drive and one second-half explosion from Tanner Vines – of stopping what the Rifle Bears do, which is run the football. The seventh-ranked Bears (9-1), who will meet second-seeded Resurrection Christian (10-0) on the road next weekend, average nearly 400 yards per game on the ground.
But the Reds, who finished tied for second in the Patriot West League behind the Cougars, held Vines to just two yards on five, first-quarter carries and the Bears to 71 yards on 19 attempts at intermission. Just over half of those came on a ten-play, 50-yard scoring drive that began with four minutes left in the first period, concluding on Levi Warfel’s two yard plunge 36 seconds into the second quarter.
The extra point try was low, bouncing off the crossbar, leaving the Bears with a 6-0 halftime edge. Prior to that, Eaton was given the ball at Rifle’s 28 when Kevin Tlaxcala dropped a punt on the Bears’ first possession. The Reds, whose sophomore quarterback Scott Grable passed for 1,047 yards this season, chose to run four straight plays, losing a fumble themselves on a bad pitch, recovered by Warfel .
With the run game being stuffed by Eaton, Bear quarterback Holden Stutsman dumped a screen pass to Vines in the left flat and the senior, who’s rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, ran over and through defenders for 41 yards to the Reds’ 26. An incompletion and three running plays failed to produce a first down, yielding the ball at the 23.
Vines crashed in for a 10-yard sack on Eaton's subsequent third down, setting up a punt and the short field that led to the only score before halftime. Eaton tried to answer, putting together their best drive of the half, mixing the pass and run, but Carter Pressler broke up a third down pass attempt and Vines’ pressure chased Grable out of the pocket for no gain at the Bear 26.
The second half kickoff was a touchback, placing the Bears at their 20, but Stutsman raced around right end for 12 yards, followed by nine by Warfel. Vines was thrown for a loss of one on the short yardage try, leaving him with 21 yards gained on ten attempts, but that would all change on the next play.
Starting up the middle on 3rd-and-two, Vines slashed into the backfield, ran over the safety and was off for a 60-yard touchdown, putting Rifle up 13-0 with 10:13 to go in the third period.
Eddie Ruiz booted the kickoff to the one where Spencer Renfroe lost his footing after a yard gain. Following a big hit by Pressler and a penalty, the Reds wound up punting from their end zone, Tlaxcala calling for a fair catch at the Eaton 34. A false start moved the ball back to the 39, but Stutsman launched a perfect pass to Kenny Tlaxcala who caught it in stride for the score at 8:14, putting Rifle up 20-0.
Following his TD catch, Tlaxcala teamed with Ethan Mackley, who came up big on defense all day, for a sack, and Pressler intercepted Grable on the next play, returning the pick to the Eaton 24.
The Bears marched in on seven plays, Warfel and Vines trading carries until the latter sealed the outcome on a one-yard run with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Ruiz booted the extra point to cap the scoring.
Eaton put together three first-downs in a 12-play drive, but a holding call at the Bear 36 and two incompletions forced a punt from the 46. Warfel, Stutsman, and Vines then used up the final 9:53, earning five first-downs on the ground before Stutsman took a knee to run out the clock and the game.
The Bears, led by 102 second-half yards from Vines, who had 124 on 17 carries for the game, finished with 217 rushing yards to 27 for the Reds. Warfel added 71 yards on 17 attempts. Stutsman outpassed his counterpart, connecting on 6-of-9 for 101 yards, to 5-of-15 and 47 for Grable.
Having lost a coin flip for the second round, Rifle will be on the road next Saturday to meet Resurrection Christian, which plays its home games in Windsor, where they defeated Alamosa, 27-6.
GLENWOOD FINISHES SECOND IN LEAGUE, AWAITS RPI SEEDING SUNDAY
The Glenwood Springs Demons, in their first year under head coach Pat Engle, won their last two games by a combined score of 82-12, taking second place in the 3A Western Slope with a 4-1 record, but it might not be enough to make the playoffs.
The Demons (5-5) began the season 1-4, including a 16-10 overtime loss to Roosevelt and a 27-14 defeat by 2A Rifle, which left Glenwood with an uphill battle in the RPI seedings that determine the state’s sixteen team playoff bracket.
Prior to Glenwood’s 41-0 final game whitewashing of Steamboat Springs, the Demons were ranked number 18. The team just ahead, George Washington (6-4) defeated Conifer 28-22 in its last game, so they will probably get the 16 spot, likely vacated by Fort Morgan (8-2), which lost 31-28 to number five Erie. The schools in the 14-15 places won, with number 13 Frederick (8-2) losing to number 10 Mead, 30-8.
Glenwood senior running back Luke Gair finished his final two home games about as well as possible, even though he played only the first halves of the 41-12 win over Summit County and the romp over the Sailors. Against the Tigers, Gair carried the ball only four times, but scored three touchdowns and gained 165 yards. The TD runs increased each time, going 30 yards, 45, and concluding with a brilliant 82-yard gallop.
Incredibly, Gair just about matched that output versus Steamboat, again scoring three touchdowns on four attempts that totaled 152 yards. His end zone jaunts accelerated once more from one yard, to 45, to 61. So in the final two league games, Gair gained 317 yards on eight carries, an average of nearly 40 yards per attempt, scoring six touchdowns.
Senior Wyatt Ewer found the end zone in three different ways, returning a punt 62 yards and catching a 20-yard TD pass from Dylan Albright against Summit, then returning an interception 25 yards for a score versus the Sailors. Albright, a junior, attempted only five passes in the two games, but completed two for touchdowns, finding Gavin Olson for a 19-yard score against Steamboat.
“I don’t want to walk off this field,” Engle said as players, coaches, family and friends congregated at midfield following the Steamboat game. Olson, one of 19 Glenwood seniors, echoed that sentiment, saying his team “played our hearts out with our best friends.”
Hoping for at least another week together, should the Demons squeak into the playoffs when the brackets are announced Sunday afternoon, Ewer said, “This team has been so close. You can see the tears in everyone’s eyes – we don’t want it to end.”