KMTS FOOTBALL: Bears Step Up to Latest Challenge, 38-7 Over Conifer

RIFLE (10/12/12) — When the Rifle Bears yielded 24 points in the fourth quarter of last year’s second-round state playoff loss to Windsor, a first-half injury to Ryan Moeller was seen as a contributing factor as a 12-8 halftime deficit eventually became a 36-15 final. With that in mind, along with the gaudy, video game-like statistics the senior running back had rolled up in the Bears’ first six games (22 touchdowns and over 1,500 yards) this season, there is a temptation to view the number-one ranked 3A Bears as primarily a one-trick pony.

That perspective was put to rest when Rifle (7-0) trounced a top-ranked opponent for the second straight week, this time drubbing third-rated Conifer (5-2), 38-7 in a non-league contest, despite the Lobos keying on Moeller all game and holding him to 73 yards on 20 carries, well below his 250-a-game average.

Junior Kellin Leigh provided the counterbalance with 145 yards in 12 attempts, and served notice on Rifle’s first possession that focusing on Moeller wouldn’t be a winning strategy. On the first play after the opening kickoff, Leigh dashed 22 yards into Lobo territory, and after a four-yard gain by Moeller, put the Bears on the scoreboard with a 29-yard sprint just 69 seconds into the game.

Conifer put together a couple of first downs and reached the Rifle 33 before Thomas Kim pooched a punt to the Bear 10 yard line. The Bears went nowhere and a fourth-down snap to punter Aaron Wagler went awry with the Lobos taking over on the Bears’ seven. Three punches into the middle by Matthew McClintock and the extra point kick by Travis Tadra knotted the score with 28 seconds left in the quarter, but it didn’t stay tied long.

Conifer rushed the ball in a fake-onside kickoff attempt, leaving their coverage packed in the middle of the field. Wagler bobbled the bouncing kick, gathered it inside the Rifle 20, reversed field and outran all pursuers down the opposite sideline for an 82-yard touchdown. Marco Gutierrez, as he did all five PATs, drilled the extra point with ten seconds left and Rifle would never give up the lead.

Zach Bare, who along with Austin Shepherd, had a tremendous game for the underrated Rifle defense, sacked Kim on Conifer’s next possession and the ensuing punt went into the Lobo lineman, giving Rifle the ball at the six yard line. Conifer stopped Leigh and Moeller at the two, and a third-down exchange was fumbled, losing 13 yards, so Gutierrez booted a 32 yard field goal for a 17-7 lead with 8:26 to go in the second quarter.

Moeller and Wagler combined to stop a fourth-down attempt at the Lobo 46, 28 seconds before halftime. The Bears made Conifer pay for that gamble as Moeller broke his longest run of the game, 20 yards to the 18, and Adam Rice found Wagler with a perfectly-thrown pass to the end zone for a 24-7 lead at the half.

The Rifle defense took the heart out of the Lobos in the third quarter, recovering a fumble, holding them to just 16 yards on 11 carries, and Moeller intercepting Kim, who was 0-for-3 passing. Follow the fumble recovery, the Bears covered 35 yards in 6 plays, Leigh bursting for 23 of them and Moeller hurdling the Lobo defense from the one for the score.

It took the Bears just two plays to go 63 yards on their next possession. Leigh again doing the most damage as he broke loose around left end for 62 yards before being pushed out of bounds, and Moeller scoring his 24th touchdown of the season on the next play, giving Rifle a 38-7 lead going into the final frame.

Conifer’s only previous loss was 17-10 to Evergreen, which hosts Glenwood Springs in a non-league game this Friday, while the Bears (7-0, 5-0 WSL) entertain the Steamboat Sailors(3-4, 2-4).