GLENWOOD SPRINGS (11/5/10) — In the last second of the last league game for thirteen Glenwood senior football players, the Demons trailed Rifle by five points. As the clock turned to zero, Luke Jacob faked right, went left, and “The hole opened up for me,” he said afterwards. The Glenwood quarterback danced untouched into the end zone for a 20-19 victory over Rifle, to preserve the third undefeated league season in the past four years for the Demons and propel them into the number two seeding in the 3A state playoffs.
“That's what high school football is all about,” senior Nick Ciani, team co-captain with Jacob, said after that three-yard touchdown overcame a valiant effort by a young Bears team (with just six seniors) that has defied expectations all season, and sitting in the number 20 spot in the 3A playoff wildcard standings, had Glenwood (9-1, 7-0, and ranked second in the state by Colorado Preps) “back on our heels,” Ciani admitted.
“It was way fun, but scary,” said senior Drew Halsch, whose 6-yard TD run with time running down in the third quarter gave Glenwood its first lead of the game, 14-13 after JD Weeden booted the extra point through the uprights. That kick would turn out to be decisive, because three minutes earlier, Rifle's Hector Ruiz had his second attempt at a PAT blocked following a penalty.
For the only time since the Montrose game that Jacob missed because of a concussion, the Demons failed to score in the first quarter, managing just one first down to four by the Bears, whose 11-play drive ended when Rigo Garcia broke up a 4th-down pass in the end zone. Rifle's second possession was similar, going 10 plays before Chad Montover sacked Bear QB Keaton Deere on a 4th-and-6 at the GSHS 37.
The Bears forced a third consecutive Demon punt, and used nearly 6 minutes and 16 plays before sophomore Ryan Moeller covered the final 14 yards for the game's first score. At that point, the beleaguered Demon defense had been on the field for 37 of the game's 50 plays. Still it took an acrobatic catch by Rian Creech on 3rd-and-11, and a 4th-and-2 plunge by Moeller to keep the drive alive. Ruiz booted the extra point for a 7-0 Rifle lead with 4:22 before halftime.
Jacob surpassed Glenwood's entire offensive output by one as he ran 20 yards on the first play after the kickoff, and Drew Halsch went 21 yards on the next play to the Bear 35. Montover covered the remaining distance on the subsequent play, but a holding penalty nullified the score. No matter, the suddenly revived Demon offense gained a first down at the 23 before freshman Henry Hill, catching just his second pass of the season at about the 10, maintained his footing to stumble in for the touchdown. Weeden's kick with 2:25 left in the half knotted the score at 7.
Glenwood forced Rifle to punt for the first time following the second half kickoff, but fumbled the ball back to the Bears on the next play at the Demon 44. The Glenwood defense seemed to have held, until Rifle coach Damon Wells called a sweep-reverse pass, facing 4th-and-10 at the 32.
Moeller took a pitch toward the right, handed off to Taylor Webb on the reverse, and the junior lofted a pass to the wide-open Creech, who easily covered the remaining yards to put Rifle up 13-7 with 6:10 to go in the quarter. Ruiz's extra point kick was good, but a penalty moved the ball back to the 15, and his next attempt was blocked. That miss allowed the Demons to take a 14-13 lead with a seven-play, 3:22 minute drive as Halsch and Jacob took turns consuming the entire on the ground.
Undaunted, the Bears responded, overcoming a fumble (recovered for a first down by Kyle Shaw at the RHS 39) and a procedure penalty, when Deare connected with Austin Booth for a 26 yard completion on 4th-and-6 to the Glenwood 15. The same combo moved the ball to the four, and Moeller took it in for a 19-14 Rifle lead with 9:33 to play in the game. But the officials ruled Webb's catch of the conversion pass was trapped.
Fully untracked now, the Halsch-Jacob ground game ran up three first downs, reaching first-and-goal at the Rifle five, but Jacob was sacked to the nine and three pass attempts fell incomplete. The Bears had 6:40 to go for a spectacular upset that would insure their place in the playoffs. Moeller fumbled on their second play, but Creech recovered it, and in fighting for the ball, Glenwood was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
This gave the Bears new life, but for the first time all game, the Demon defense halted halted an option pitch to Moeller on third-down, Montover tackling him for no gain. Facing 4th-and-3 on their own 34, the Bears decided to punt and the ball rolled to the Glenwood 33.
Glenwood's positioning in the state tournament, as well as the Bears' playoff hopes, now depended on whether the Demons could go 67 yards in the 3:25 left in the game.
With 3:25 left in the final regular season football game, trailing 19-14, Glenwood Springs had to go 67 yards to remain undefeated in Western Slope play, and the Rifle Bears didn't make it easy, as the Demons faced third down three times in the game-winning drive.
The most spectacular play came on 3rd-and-10, with 42 seconds left at the Bear 37 and Rifle mounting a full-out blitz. Luke Jacob barely managed to shovel the ball to Drew Halsch: “I wasn't supposed to have guys in my face, and he (Halsch) made a great play,” managing to gain nine yards to the 28. On fourth-and-one, Jacob's keeper from under center was close enough for a measurement, but ruled a first down with 17 ticks left on the clock.
Next play, Jacob found Henry Hill open in the left flat and the pass gained 20 yards to the Rifle 7. “I made the wrong read, and he made an amazing catch,” Jacob said of the freshman, making just his third varsity reception. With 5 seconds remaining, Glenwood was still saving its final time out, calling the next play while the chains were moved. Jacob tried to hit Willy Pelland crossing in front of the goal posts, but he was hit early by a Rifle defender and pass interference was called. The ball was moved half the distance to the goal as coach Rocky Whitworth called time out with the clock reading, 0:01.
Glenwood's most effective play in the second half had been the fake to Halsch one way, with Jacob going the other. Following the time out, Jacob said, “We ran the play a little different, and they bit on the fake.” As time expired, the senior quarterback was burried by teammates in the end zone, and the Glenwood stands errupted, while Rifle players and fans, so hopeful a second earlier, stared unbelieving as the scoreboard showed the home team prevailing, 20-19.
“They fought hard,” senior co-captain Nick Ciani said, paying tribute to the Rifle effort.
“It was the last chance to play Rifle for me,” Jacob said on behalf of a group of seniors who concluded four straight wins over the Bears with back-to-back, 20-19 victories. There was no need to attempt the extra point since the clock had expired on the final play.
Bear sophomore Ryan Moeller gained 118 yards on 24 carries for two touchdowns and senior quarterback Keaton Deare completed 10-of-13 passes for 120 yards. Junior Austin Booth had 5 catches for 66 yards. Jacob was 7-of-12 for 86 yards and rushed for 66 on 14 carries, leaving him four yards short of 1,000 for the season. Halsch bounced back from a sub-par game against the loaded Delta defense to lead the Bears with 77 yards on 12 carries.
The win sends Glenwood (9-1, 7-0 WSL) into the first-round of the state playoffs on an eight-game winning streak, seeded second to Elizabeth, the lone undefeated 3A team, which finished the regular season 10-0 by defeating Glenwood's first-round opponent, Englewood 49-7, Friday. The Metro South Pirates (8-2, 4-2 and seeded 15th) won their first six games before losing 45-13 at Evergreen.
Rifle's impressive showing was not enough to get the 20th-ranked Bears (6-4, 4-3), who lost their last three league games, into the 16-team playoffs. The only other Western Slope team to make the playoffs is 4th-seeded Palisade, which hosts Silver Creek (7-3, seeded 13th) and is on the same side of the bracket with number-one Elizabeth. The Glenwood-Englewood winner will meet the winner of Centaurus (7th, 8-2) and Lewis Palmer (10th, 8-2).
Moffat County (6-4, 5-2), was ranked 16th in the state 3A wild card standings, but trouncing winless Steamboat Springs, 42-8 wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Delta (5-5, 3-4) was ahead of the Bears by one spot (19th), but was defeated by Palisade, 28-14.