Jon Mitchell

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November 7, 2012
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Who's No. 1 not on Bears' mind

Unlike a lot of politicians in the past few weeks, Rifle High School's football team doesn't pay attention to polls.

A lot of people have been, however. After all, the Bears have been the top-ranked team in most of Colorado's Class 3A polls for a majority of the season, including the Denver Post and the site.

Not that Rifle is campaigning for those votes or, for that matter, paying attention.

"That's really not that big of a deal to us," Rifle senior running back and safety Ryan Moeller said. "We're more focused on what we do on the field."

Actions, in this case, have spoken volumes for the unbeaten Bears (10-0). They've outscored their opponents 433-35, won their second consecutive 3A Western Slope League title and, based on that lofty resume, earned the top seed in the Class 3A state playoffs.

Rifle begins its playoff campaign at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bears Stadium, when it hosts Erie, the 16th-seeded team in the 16-team bracket. The winner moves on to play either No. 9 Palisade or No. 8 Roosevelt in the state quarterfinals.

Rifle, however, isn't paying attention to numbers.

"We don't care about being No. 1, mainly because we didn't pick it," Rifle coach Damon Wells said. "It will be neat for the kids to look back on and tell people they were ranked No. 1. It will be something no one can take away. But we know just as well as anyone that your seed doesn't matter."

Case in point: Rifle went to the state championship game in 2005 as the No. 16 seed. With that in mind, Wells feels the Bears "fully expect to have their hands full, and no one in our program is focusing on anything other than our game on Saturday."

Erie (7-3), as it turns out, is very similar to Rifle. The Tigers finished third in the Class 3A Northern League behind Frederick and Holy Family and boast a rushing attack that averages 280.4 rushing yards per game. Erie's offense has five players who have carried the ball at least 50 times this season, with junior running back Joey Ramsy (747 yards on 102 carries) toting the rock more than anyone.

The Tigers' only three losses have come to Northridge (a 4A school), Frederick and Holy Family, each in consecutive weeks. Against all other opponents, however, the Tigers are allowing only 7.71 points per game. Four of those victories were shutouts, including three shutouts in Erie's first four games of the season.

Rifle, however, has shut out five opponents this season, and the points the junior varsity team allowed in the second half of the Bears' 52-13 win over Eagle Valley on Nov. 2 were the most Rifle has allowed this season.

The Bears also have three different players who have shouldered much of the load running the ball. Much of the yardage has come from Ryan Moeller, who has 2,202 yards and 31 touchdowns on 188 carries.

Not to be outdone, however, is Kellin Leigh (847 yards) and Isaiah Rider (260), who have both proven to be viable options for a team that averages 367 rushing yards per game.

Rifle, however, has earned its ranking thanks in part to its margin of victory each week. Just don't expect the players to be walking the streets stating their case.

"We know that we're not going to stay No. 1 if we all don't do our jobs for 48 minutes," Leigh said. "We never let that play a factor in our minds. We just play our game and go from there."

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 7, 2012 06:57PM Published Nov 7, 2012 06:56PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.