With Damon Wells as its head coach, there is one thing Rifle High School will never be: Unprepared.
From the coaches down to the players, the Bears are as dedicated to football as any team you'll ever see.
"What's always impressed me about Rifle is just their great desire," Steamboat Springs head coach Lonn Clementson said after his team suffered a 56-0 loss to undefeated Rifle last Friday. "I think they really are the benchmark, the standard, for the league, especially right now. I can say, at least for our program, that's what we aspire to be at some point."
From the weight room to the film room to the practice field, the 3A Western Slope League-leading Bears have poured all sorts of sweat into their 8-0 record.
"It feels like a full-time job sometimes," Rifle junior Kellin Leigh said. "But it's all worth it."
The Bears, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A according to the Denver Post poll, are closing in on the end of the regular season. With two games remaining - a contest at 6-2 Delta this Friday and a home date with 7-1 Eagle Valley next week - Rifle is gunning for its second straight league title.
"We know it's going to be tough sledding from here on out, every step of the way," Wells said. "Hopefully, we're fortunate enough to get into the playoffs. ... Delta's always a really tough place to play. Eagle Valley has some big, physical kids. We saw them play at Glenwood. They're no joke."
But a league title isn't everything in Wells' eyes.
"All that stuff's really cool," Wells said. "You get a really cool T-shirt for winning the league, but we just want to be in the playoffs."
Once you reach the playoffs, Wells knows anything can happen. He's been part of some wild postseason rides, including one that ended with the Bears winning a state title in 2004 and another that took the Bears to the 2005 state title game. Both years, Rifle finished fourth in the WSL.
"The notion is supposed to be that, if you have a higher seed, it's supposed to be a little easier road," the veteran coach said. "I've been at Rifle for 13 years or whatever it's been, and we've found a little more success with the lower seed. Ultimately, we don't care what our seed is."
Whatever the Bears' seed, it's safe to assume they'll be ready for whatever comes their way. And it all stems from a deep love for the game of football, one that drives them to put in all that work.
"I can't say enough about how hard their players play and how much they love the game," Clementson said. "We'd like to get to that point at some point. I think they're going to go far."