KMTS Football: Rifle Machine Recovers to Overcome Demon Upset Bid

GLENWOOD SPRINGS (9/27/19) – For the first eight minutes of the Glenwood Springs-Rifle rivalry game, the Demons tried on Cinderella’s glass slipper and it appeared the Homecoming week theme of “Find a way,” might possibly have a happy ending. The Bears’ five unanswered touchdowns, following an early Glenwood lead put an end to the Demons’ upset bid, 34-7.

On the 2A state-ranked number one Bears’ first snap of the game, a fumble gave Glenwood possession at the Rifle 22-yard line. Blake Nieslanik picked up 12 yards on two carries and sophomore QB Evan Heyl connected with Wheatley Nieslanik for a first down at the four. Two runs gained just one yard, and somehow the officials decided it was 4th-and-goal. A pass to Elliott Walz was overthrown, but pass interference gave the Demons another chance. Tucker Porter made the most of it, scoring from the one and Tyler Thomas booted the extra point for a 7-0 Glenwood lead with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

The Bears (4-0), who won their first three games by a combined 126-32 score, and rushed for over 900 yards, actually lost yardage on their first two plays after Thomas’s touchback on the kickoff. An incomplete pass seemed to bring up a 4th and 12 from inside the Bear 20, but Glenwood (0-4) was called for defensive holding and Levi Warfel gained two yards and a first down on third-and-two.

The Demons’ Homecoming carriage turned into a pumpkin after that reprieve resulted in unanswered scoring drives on four straight Rifle possessions, including an 85-yard touchdown burst down the left sideline by Warfel with 50 seconds to go in the second quarter, for a 20-7 halftime lead.

In an interview before the game, veteran Rifle coach Damon Wells wondered, “how a school our size is supposed to compete with a school (Glenwood’s) size.” Second-year Demon coach Pat Engle had an answer for that saying the Bears have “built a machine that only needs lubricants (each year), not replacements.”

That machine emerged on the Bears 16-play, seven-minute, 80 yard drive for their first score early in the second quarter on an 11-yard bootleg by Stutsman. It began to find its groove with an 11-play, four-minute, 78-yard drive on Rifle’s next possession, ending in a 27-yard touchdown on a shovel pass from Stutsman to Warfel with 3:51 left in the half. The senior running back’s sideline explosion was his eleventh touchdown in four games. Last season he ran for nine TD’s as a complement to Tanner Vines’ 2,230 yards and 21 scores.

The Bears’ clock and yardage grinding engine reached near perfection in the second half. Rifle added one score in each quarter, a 30-yard pass from Stutsman to Talon Cordova in the third and a one-yard quarterback sneak in the fourth, but it was time of possession that told the full story.

Until a final possession against Rifle defensive back-ups following Stutsman’s TD with 1:20 to play, the Bears had the ball for 20 minutes, 23 seconds to two minutes, 17 seconds for the Demons, which included nine Rifle first-downs to none for Glenwood, and 159 yards to seven.

Rifle begins 2A Western Slope League play next Friday, hosting Coal Ridge, while Glenwood finishes its non-league season playing Roosevelt at Roaring Fork Middle School in Carbondale.

Listen to the game here:

About Jack Jabbour

High school sports analyst
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