RIFLE (11/10/12) — “We do what we do,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said before his team did just that in a 42-0 domination of Erie in the first round of the 3A state playoffs, Saturday. The win earns the Bears a second-round game at home against the Roosevelt Rough Riders, who outlasted Palisade, 21-15, and lost to the Bears in the first round in 2011, 14-7.
This first-round game had an inevitability about it that had the 16th-seeded Tigers backpedaling from the first quarter when Ryan Moeller, who would score five touchdowns before the running clock began in the fourth quarter, rushed for 84 yards and the Bears’ first TD with 3:22 left in the period. An early morning snow had the field soft in spots and it showed with an exchange of fumbles on the teams’ first possessions. But it was the Moeller show after that with none of the decoy strategy employed in some of the Bears’ previous contests against top ten ranked teams.
Moeller got the ball on seven of Rifle’s first ten plays, including a 41 yard burst that set up his one yard run, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead. A slight variation in the second quarter saw Rifle put together a 6-play, 68 yard drive, with sophomore Isaac Rider breaking free for 30 yards to the one, setting up Moeller’s second TD with 8:44 to go in the half.
The Bears failed to take advantage of Austin Shepherd’s interception on their next possession, but as the defense continued to shut down Eire’s running game (holding them to 7 yards in the second quarter and no first downs), Rifle then drove 78 yards in 7 plays with Moeller again going in from the one with 39 seconds remaining until halftime. This time, Kellin Leigh was the set-up man, gaining 30 yards on 3 carries. Marco Gutierrez’ extra point gave the Bears a 21-0 lead.
It was more of the same in the third quarter as Moeller returned the kickoff to the 25, then gained all 75 yards in four plays, the last 64 coming as he broke through the middle, shedding tacklers until Rifle had a 28-0 lead.
The Tigers continued their three-and-out offensive pattern, but halted a Bears drive at the 17 when Pedro Anderson intercepted Adam Rice’s pass. Moeller returned that pick with a vengeance, grabbing Tristen Lyle’s pass near the Tiger 40 and taking it the distance for his 5th TD and a 35-0 lead with 3:49 left in the third quarter.
The Bear defense, led by Coy Zang, stopped Eire on downs at the Rifle 30, and used three big plays to cover the 70 yards that started the running clock. Moeller ripped off 30 yards, then Rice connected with Tanner Quick for 19, before Moeller’s last carry of the game covered 15 yards to the Eire 11. Leigh took the ball to the two, and Rider finished the six-play drive with 8:46 to go.
With the clock running, Erie put together its best drive since the first one of the game, but Clinton Farr stopped a reverse on fourth down to keep the shutout, the sixth of the season for the Bears.
Moeller finished with 278 yards in 24 carries to go along with his 5-touchdowns, giving him 36 in 11 games. Leigh had 59 yards in 8 attempts, and Rider added 36 in 4 carries. Rice didn’t need to go to the air much with the Bears rushing for 383 yards, but did complete two passes to Quick in three attempts, for 28 yards.
The 11-0 Bears’ next opponent, 8th seeded Roosevelt, (7-4) was undefeated in the Tri-Valley League, which includes Silver Creek, a 33-14 upset winner over Elizabeth in Saturday’s first round. The Rough Riders lost 4 of their first 5 games this year, but have now won six in a row.
Three previous Rifle victims advanced to the round of eight: Delta (8-3, seeded 13), on the same side of the bracket as the number-one Bears, dispatched number-four Classical Academy, 21-0; Eagle Valley (8-3, 14-seed) upset number-three Frederick, 33-8; and Conifer (9-2, 6-seed) edged Northridge, 38-31. Another top-seeded team, number two Discovery Canyon (9-2), lost at home to 15-seed Pueblo Central (8-3).
Fifth-seeded Pueblo East (9-2) is the highest seed remaining, other than the Bears, and will travel to Delta next weekend, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals against the Rifle-Roosevelt winner.
On the other side of the bracket, Conifer was the only home team to win, so will travel to Eagle Valley, with Silver Creek facing Pueblo Central.