GLENWOOD SPRINGS(9/13/13) — Evrett Marr pounded the turf in despair after dropping a fourth-down pass with under 15 seconds left, ending an heroic upset effort by his Glenwood Springs team on a Friday the 13th that saw the visiting Rifle Bears fortunate to escape with a 13-7 victory.
Had Marr been able to hold onto Travis Lundin’s pass, the Demons would still have required a miracle to overcome the undefeated, 5th-ranked Bears, with no time outs left and 44 yards to go in 11 seconds.
Glenwood had much better chances throughout the game, mainly because its defense did something neither of Rifle’s previous opponents could do: limit the explosive Bear running game to no plays longer than Kellin Leigh’s 22-yard run on the first play of the 2nd quarter that set up what would prove to be the winning score.
Rifle had scored 116 points in its first two games and rushed for 786 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 45 running attempts — an average of 17 yards per carry. Though the Bears weren’t breaking tackles as they did in those prior games, they did put together two long scoring drives on their first two possessions. Rifle went 93 yards in the first quarter, while putting together 5 first downs (they had just 6 in each of their first two games), using nearly 6 minutes before Layton Stutsman’s 1-yard QB sneak for a 6-0 lead with 4:38 remaining.
Glenwood, meanwhile went 3-and-out on its first two possessions, and the Bears drove 80 yards, making it 13-0 on Brock Clark’s 13-yard run with 10:25 to go in the half.
Zach Bare was making Lundin’s evening a nightmare, despite favorable field position for the Demons throughout the first-half,
registering 4 sacks for a loss of 31 yards. Henry Hill nearly countered that pressure as he and Lundin alternated carries from their own 45 to the Bear 17 before Hill dashed into the end zone from there with 4:51 until halftime. But a chop-block penalty negated the score and Bare’s 4th sack ended the threat at the Bear 23. He nearly had a 5th, after Lundin had connected with Justin Barham and Marr for consecutive first downs, when he forced Lundin to throw the ball away after chasing him across midfield. Glenwood was penalized for grounding, effectively ending that scoring attempt.
However, those signs of offensive life, and back-to-back defensive stops that forced two Rifle punts (the Bears had punted only once this season) indicated that the second half might hold just a tad more suspense than the previous two games, when the Bears had 40-plus leads, forcing a running clock before halftime.
The Bears, alternating between Stutsman keepers and Clark’s sweeps, picked up two first downs following the second-half kickoff, but big defensive plays by Garrett Lowe, Dante Sparaco, and Cole Adams stopped Rifle on downs at the Glenwood 30.
Bare manhandled Lundin for his 5th sack to force another Chase Nieslanik punt, but he boomed it 40 yards and the Demon defense again came up big, featuring Lowe and Sparaco and joined by Derrick Chase and Marr. Clark’s punt went out of bounds at the Bear 40, where Henry Hill went to work.
The Demon senior, who would leave the game early in the fourth with his right arm hanging loosely after a play on defense, covered 28 of those yards on 4 carries, setting up a 1-yard touchdown by Chase. Robert Hiles, who had to be helped off the field in the first half, recovered to kick the extra point and cut the lead to 13-7 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Rifle went to the air with Stutsman hitting Austin Knight for a pair of first downs and Clark getting 10 tough yards on 3 carries for a 1st down at the 11, Hill leaving the game after one of those plays. Cristian Gonzalez sacked Stutsman, but the Bear QB hit Knight again down to the 6. On a scramble toward the left sideline, Stutsman was rocked by the Demon defense and Sparaco recovered the fumble. Three plays later, Nieslanik punted from his end zone but Knight fumbled the rolling football near midfield and Glenwood had a precious opportunity with 7:04 left in the game.
With Hill out of the game, Chase became the prime running back, and broke loose for 28 yards to the Bear 26. Two more Chase attempts left Glenwood facing 4th-and-6 at the 22. Lundin dropped back to pass, was nearly knocked down in a collision with Chase, but scrambled free toward the right sideline where he attempted to hit Cole Adams. Bailey Hoffmeister stepped in front for the interception, the 6th of the season for Lundin.
Facing 4th-and-one at its own 20, the Bears gambled with Stutsman getting three yards to maintain possession. A blitz by Lowe forced a fumble on the next play, but Rifle recovered, then punted from its 18 with about a minute to play. Clark got a favorable roll, and perhaps recalling Knight’s faux-pas, Marr did not try to pick it up, the ball settling at the Demon 41.
With 46 seconds to play and no time outs, Lundin got a favorable call on a pass that Justin Barham appeared to catch after a bounce, but two incompletions set up the final pass, caught by Marr, but jarred loose at the Glenwood 45.
Lundin, despite the interception and 6 sacks, completed 9 of 13 passes for 65 yards. Hill had 73 yards on 10 carries, and Chase had 36 on 7 rushes. For the Bears, who had 4 players with 90+ yards in their first two games, Clark led the running attack with 81 yards in 19 attempts. Leigh, who’d been averaging 30 yards per carry (246 yards on 8 tries), had 55 yards in 9 attempts. The Bears totaled 207 yards in 50 carries, but did roll up 17 first downs. Stutsman was 6-of-11 for 96 yards, all to Knight.
Rifle, 3-0 and 2-0 in Western Slope play, hosts Montezuma-Cortez (1-2, and 47-0 losers to Palisade, Friday) while Glenwood (0-3, 0-2) travels to improved Steamboat Springs (2-1, and 57-15 winners at Moffat County) next weekend.