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October 10, 2012
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Quoth the defense: Never score

Two touchdowns and a field goal.

One of those touchdowns the Rifle High School football team yielded came in the fourth week of the season, against Montezuma-Cortez, and the other was in week one, against Coal Ridge. None of them came against Palisade, which came a foot short of reaching the end zone on the final play of the Bears' 31-3 victory over the Bulldogs at Grand Junction's Stoker Stadium last Thursday.

The only field goal the Bears have allowed was against Palisade, too. Add the points up, and Rifle, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, has allowed just 15 points this season.

For all of the accolades Rifle's rushing game has received this season, the Bears' defense has been nothing short of stellar. According to MaxPreps.com, The Classical Academy of Colorado Springs, which has allowed 49 points this season, is the closest in the classification to match Rifle.

"Our kids don't have a whole lot of size, but they have a lot of quickness and great technique," Rifle defensive coordinator Anthony Alfini said. "They do a great job of just doing what they're supposed to do."

The Bears have gone beyond just keeping their opponents out of the end zone this season, too. Rifle has forced 14 turnovers - eight interceptions, six fumbles - and held Palisade to 298 yards of total offense last week. The week before, against Battle Mountain, the Bears forced eight punts and pushed the winless Huskies backwards over the course of the game, to the tune of minus 13 yards in a 55-0 victory.

Then again, Alfini will be the first one to tell you the Bears' offense, which has scored 266 points this season, also contributes to that defensive domination.

"It is great having so much success on offense," Alfini said. "Teams end up playing from behind right away, and it makes them do things differently then what their initial game plan was."

The Bears use multiple defensive front lines, but there's not a lot of size up front. Zach Bare (165 pounds), Hugo Ruelas (140) and Keimi Payan (180) are the mainstays on the line, while Brock Clark (180) and Tanner Quick (205) switch off up front. Linebacker Cody Beauford anchors the corps behind the line with a team-high 56 tackles through six games.

"We're able to move kids around quite a bit depending on what we want to take away," Alfini said. "Our kids are pretty versatile."

Rifle's secondary hasn't wavered, either. Ryan Moeller anchors that secondary and has a team-high three interceptions, including a pick on the Bulldogs' opening drive last Thursday. Bailey Hoffmeister's interception inside the Bears' 10-yard line near the end of the first half was also key, and four other Rifle players (Aaron Wagler, Kellin Leigh, Lee Harrison and Bare) also have interceptions this season.

Rifle will have to bear down up front again this week, when it hosts Conifer in a non-league game at 7 p.m. Friday. Conifer rushed for 648 yards in its 50-38 victory over D'Evelyn last week.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge," Alfini said. "We have a tough game ahead of us Friday night."


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The Post Independent Updated Oct 10, 2012 06:06PM Published Oct 10, 2012 06:05PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.