JOHNSTOWN(11-15-14) — Two large electric heaters on the homefield sideline didn’t help the number three-ranked Roosevelt Rough Riders whose offense never did warm up as the sixth-ranked Rifle Bears broke a scoreless tie in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdowns, advancing to the 3A state semifinals, 15-0.
Snow plows were on the field more than the two teams during pre-game warmups, as Rifle overcame constant snow and below freezing temperatures along with two first-quarter fumbles to defeat Roosevelt in the playoffs for the third time in the last four years.
The snowy conditions likely caused each team to misfire on an early scoring opportunity, Rifle fumbling at the Roosevelt three-yard-line after grinding out three first downs on its opening drive. Christian Majszak appeared headed for an 81-yard touchdown run when he broke free four plays after Brock Clark’s fumble. But Tyler Bosshardt never gave up on his pursuit, actually knocking the ball loose with a diving tackle, but it went out of bounds at the Rifle15.
The Rough Riders’ sophomore QB, Cameron Hurtado, who rushed for nearly 800 yards to lead his team this season, carried three times for a 1st-and-gaol at the Rifle five. But Majssak, who wouldn’t carry the ball again in the game, coughed it up at the three and the Bears recovered. Stutsman was nearly brought down in the end zone for a safety, but struggled out to the two, and two runs by Blaine Vance netted a first down before Bosshardt had to make his only punt of the game.
The Bears mounted another scoring threat on their first second-quarter possession, gaining 4 first-downs and 62 yards before a fourth-down pass to an open Cody Rice was overthrown by Layton Stutsman. It was passing attempt in the game’s first 15 minutes. Alex Gould blocked Roosevelt’s punt with 19 seconds left in the half, and an 11-yard run by Blaine Vance gave Eduardo Sandoval a 26-yard field goal try on the last play of the half, but the kick, into the wind and the blowing snow, fell far short of the crossbar.
When the Rough Riders’ punter failed to field the snap on his team’s first possession of the second half, Rifle took over just 31 yards from the game’s first score. Three running plays gained just six yards and Stutsman’s 4th down pass was intercepted by Orlando Rivera in the end zone for a touchback.
The Rough Riders converted a pair of third-down runs by Hurtado and Carlos Ortega to get to midfield, but Bosshardt stopped Hurtado one-on-one on an end run, then tipped away his first pass attempt of the game to force a 40 punt that was returned by Stutsman to the 25.
From there, Clark and Vance carried a combined 10 times for four first downs, setting up Ty Leyba’s 12 yard slip-and-slide around left end for the game’s first points two minutes (and 8 seconds) into the fourth quarter.
The drive consumed 12 plays and 5:33, and Clark capped it with a two-point off tackle conversion run for an 8-0 Rifle lead with 9:52 to play.
Austin Shepherd pancaked Hurtado’s third-down run, forcing Roosevelt’s fifth punt of the game. Stutsman fielded a tricky hop off the snowy turf to set Rifle up at its own 42, and Clark and Vance did the rest, chewing up 58 yards in 9 carries, with Clark breaking loose from the 19 for a game-clinching score. Sandoval’s extra point provided an insurmountable 15-0 lead with 3:02 remaining in the game.
The Rough Riders managed just 162 total yards for the game and six first downs, while Rifle ran the ball 60 times for 293 yards and moved the chains 19 times. Vance led the Bears with 150 yards on 24 attempts with Clark adding 115 on 21 carries.
The win earns Rifle (11-1) a semi-final match at home against number 10-seed Fort Morgan (10-2) which upset 7th-seeded Holy Family in the first round, and knocked off previously undefeated, number-two Evergreen 13-7 in the quarterfinals.
Number one Discovery Canyon (12-0) easily dispatched Delta, 47-7, setting up a semi-final game with number-four seed Pueblo East (9-3), which sent Palisade home, 28-14.