WINDSOR (11/10/18) – A pick-six interception on Rifle’s first possession and a failed fourth-down try on the next led to two first-quarter touchdowns for Resurrection Christian, which held on for a 21-14 quarterfinal win over the Bears played at Windsor High School Saturday.
Trailing 14-0 with 2:28 to go in the first period, on their third possession, Rifle put together a 14-play, 74 yard drive, consuming more than seven minutes and concluding with Tanner Vines’ one yard TD run with 7:06 remaining before halftime.
Sixty of those yards came on the ground, a significant achievement against a Cougar defense that had permitted 54 per game in rolling to a 10-0 record, including a 28-6 first-round win over Alamosa, holding the Moose to just 40 yards.
In a game that featured critical mistakes by both teams, the Bears committed another one when it appeared they had stopped Resurrection on a third down run in Cougar territory. A facemask infraction retained RC’s possession and moved the ball to the Bear 41. On the next play quarterback Zane Zuhlke found Sam Barnett on a deep pass that went the distance for a 21-7 lead with 5:29 left before intermission.
That score, made possible by the third-down penalty, would prove to be decisive as the Bear defense shut out the Cougars the rest of the way. At the time, Rifle had an 11-1 first-down advantage, despite trailing by 14, and got to the Cougar 31 before Holden Stutsman was intercepted for the second time by Zuhlke, who returned the first pick 55 yards for a touchdown just two and a half minutes into the game.
Zuhlke ran for a first down, then passed 25 yards for another, but a holding penalty nullified a completion to the Rifle ten yard line and a sack by Kevin Tlaxcala and two incompletions left the Bears down 21-7 at halftime.
The Cougars picked up a first down after the second-half kickoff on a run by Kyle Lueck, but the Bears stopped Zuhlke on a fourth-and-one keeper just past midfield. Thanks to a pair of crucial penalties against Resurrection Christian, Rifle survived two fourth down disasters in an 11-play scoring drive that drew the Bears within seven, 21-14 with 1:24 left in the third quarter.
The first gift came on a fourth-and-eight, quick-kick attempt by Stutsman that was blocked and would have been Cougar ball at the Bear 30. However another facemask call maintained possession for Rifle, and Vines’ 8-yard run on third-and-four set the Bears up at Resurrection’s 24.
Two runs that lost yardage and a motion penalty left the Bears facing 3rd-and-17. Vines’ five yard draw reached the 26, but Stutsman’s pass on fourth down was again intercepted by Zuhlke. However, offsetting penalties (a hold by Rifle and personal foul on the Cougars) gave Rifle another chance, which Levi Warfel took advantage of, making a leaping catch of Stutsman’s 26-yard pass in the end zone. The extra point kick by Eddie Ruiz again brought Rifle within seven, but that would be the end of the scoring.
The Bear defense forced another punt, giving Rifle the ball one minute into the final quarter. Vines ran for a pair of first downs, then gained eight to bring up a 2nd-and-3 at the RC 23, but that was as close as the Bears would get. An illegal chop block moved them back to the 38 and a fourth-down, fake-punt run by Dalton Pruett was stopped short of the first.
The Cougars fumbled on their next possession, but recovered ten yards downfield for a first down with 5:09 to play before having to punt again, the ball rolling dead at Rifle’s seven. With 3:20 left in their season and 93 yards to go, the Bears managed a pair of first downs on runs by Warfel and Vines before a procedure penalty moved them back to their own 26. Four incompletions gave Zuhlke the chance to kneel down twice and the Cougars to advance to the semifinals.
Rifle finishes its 2A season 9-2, having won the Western Slope League crown. Vines, topping the two thousand yard mark for a second season, gained 122 yards in 30 carries in his final game wearing Rifle blue-and-gold. Warfel, a junior, rushed for 48 yards in 10 carries. Stutsman, also a junior, was 5-of-14 for 65 yards passing. Zuhlke was 4-of-11 for 71 yards, stepping in for injured starter Buck Coors, and his two defensive interceptions gave him ten for the season.
The second-seeded Cougars will face number six Platte Valley, also undefeated, in next week’s semifinals.