DELTA (10/29/10) — The Rifle-Glenwood rivalry doesn’t mean what it once did — not due to the Bears moving down to class 3A with Coal Ridge High School in most sports, but because next week’s anticipated showdown will no longer determine this season’s Western Slope League championship.

The Demons (8-1, 6-0) clinched their third WSL crown in four years Friday night when an amped-up defense broke open a mistake-filled game in the fourth quarter at Delta for a 24-7 win, while 90 miles to the northeast, the Bears (6-3, 4-2) were falling 38-20 at home to Palisade. Combined with last weekend’s loss at Moffat County, Rifle can no longer catch Glenwood, even with a win over the Demons next Friday. And that circumstance would not help the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1) either because the Demons’ 21-20 win at Palisade September 23 gave Glenwood the tiebreaker.

So, who let the air out of the regular season finale between the Bears and Demons? Among others, Chad Montover and Nick Ciani can share the credit. Montover scored Glenwood’s only first-half touchdown early in the second quarter after Ciani’s juggling interception (the first of four thrown by Panther sophomore, Mitchel Whiteside) positioned the Demons at the Delta 35. Luke Jacob’s option pitch to Drew Halsch gained 15 yards and a pass from Jacob to Austin Tribble set up Montover’s one yard TD for a 10-0 Glenwood lead with 8 minutes remaining in the half.

It was Montover’s turn for an interception on Delta’s next series, but a poor pitch and a dropped pass prevented Glenwood from capitalizing, and though Chris Ayala’s second sack of Whiteside forced the Panthers to punt, the ball caromed off a Glenwood player and was recovered by Delta at the Glenwood 40. Whiteside completed passes to Devon Ruble and his senior brother, David, to set up the sophomore QB’s one-yard plunge to shave the score to 10-7 just before halftime.

Jacob matched Whiteside with his second interception and the teams exchanged punts throughout a scoreless third quarter. But Delta put together three first downs with the help of Glenwood’s second pass interference penalty that set up a 36 yard tying field goal try by Miguel Ramirez on the first play of the final period.

JD Weeden had given Glenwood a 3-0 first-quarter lead with a 23 yard field goal at about the 3-minute mark (the scoreboard clock went out shortly after the game began — never to return), but Ramirez was victimized by one of his home field’s many muddy spots and his feet went out from under him as he attempted to plant, sending his kick low and far short of the cross bar.

Clinging to their three-point advantage, that bit of good luck was followed by another for the Demons when Jacob fumbled on the next play, but recovered the ball for a first down. However, after two more first downs, Glenwood’s season-long plague of procedure penalties continued, stalling the drive at Delta’s 40.

Then Montover changed the Demons’ fortunes for good, picking off his second interception of the game at about the Panther 25 and returning it for a touchdown with 9:18 remaining in the game. “I was mad about my mistake before and wanted to make up for it,” the senior linebacker said. With Weeden’s extra point, Glenwood upped its advantage to a much safer 17-7.

Levi Fetterhoff, who had been outleaped by Nolan Britain on a long pass play earlier, also gained a measure of redemption by batting away Whiteside’s deep pass near the end zone on the next possession, and Ciani provided another defensive exclamation when he separated Whiteside from the ball on a devastating, perfectly-timed blitz, then recovered the fumble at the Panther 14.

Jacob, whose 84-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was called back when Glenwood was flagged for a holding penalty just before he reached the end zone, scored his 11th TD of the season on the next play with 1:07 to go. As a final punctuation, Fetterhoff snared the Demons’ fourth interception on Whiteside’s final pass attempt of the game.

Jacob completed just 6 of 17 passes (all to Tribble) for 70 yards and threw two interceptions, but helped overcome Glenwood’s three-turnover, 90-yard penalty night, by rushing for 139 yards on 18 carries. The beefy Delta defense limited Halsch to just 36 yards on 11 carries, but it was enough to put him over the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season (1,007). Whiteside was 13-of-27 for 202 yards but turned the ball over five times with the fumbled sack and four picks.

Glenwood, which had won back-to-back Western Slope titles in 2007 and 2008 before Steamboat Springs interrupted the streak by defeating the Demons in their final league game last year, can record its third undefeated WSL season in this group of seniors’ four years with a win at home versus Rifle next week — which should be enough motivation to spark the rivalry once more.