Citizen Telegram Contributor
GRAND JUNCTION - The so-called "Big Game" turned out to be the "Big Blowout." The Rifle Bears made sure of that from the get go.
Behind a 244-yard rushing effort from Ryan Moeller, Rifle, the top-ranked football team in Class 3A, rolled to a 31-3 Class 3A Western Slope League victory over No. 2 Palisade at Stoker Stadium.
"I think there's always a sense of pride when you plan and prepare and find a way to make it work," Rifle coach Damon Wells said. "There's a sense of accomplishment with that."
The Bears (6-0, 5-0 league play) held the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) without an offensive touchdown, as Caden Woods' plunge toward the goal line came up just a foot short as time expired. That last stand by the defense sent Rifle's bench into a cheering frenzy, as the Bears have only allowed two touchdowns and 15 points all season.
And Rifle jumped all over Palisade from the beginning, taking a 17-3 lead after one quarter before pushing its lead to 24-3 by halftime.
Moeller had 21 rushes with touchdown scampers of 78 and 74 yards, the final one coming on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. He broke through the line, hurdled a pair of Palisade players and raced into the end zone, giving the Bears a 24-3 lead after Marco Gutierrez's point-after kick.
The senior's 78-yard jaunt capped the scoring for Rifle in the first quarter, staking them to a 17-3 lead after one quarter.
"It wasn't the score that surprised me," Palisade coach John Arledge said. "We just got beat up front."
Adam Rice finished 5-for-8 passing for 106 yards, with Aaron Wagler catching three balls for 53 yards.
Palisade quarterback Luke McLean finished with 68 yards on 5-of-17 passing with a pair of interceptions. One of his biggest came at the end of the second quarter, when Bailey Hoffmeister's pick of McLean inside the Bears' 10 kept the Bulldogs out of the end zone.
Daulton Hannigan finished with 124 rushing yards to pace Palisade's rushing game. Spencer Jackson's 32-yard field goal in the first quarter accounted for all of the Bulldogs' scoring.
The Bears take a break from league play next Friday when they host Conifer, which came into the weekend ranked No. 7 in 3A. Palisade will try to rebound next Friday when it plays at Steamboat Springs.