GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The defense of Glenwood Springs High School’s football team found a way to limit the Rifle Bears’ vaunted rushing attack Friday night. But like they’ve done for the past two seasons, the Bears found a way to win.
Brock Clark rushed for a game-high 79 yards and a touchdown for the third-ranked Bears, who held off a pair of late drives from Glenwood Springs on their way to a 13-7 Class 3A Western Slope League victory in front of a packed house at Stubler Memorial Field.
“I’m proud that our kids fought the way they did tonight,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “We had two huge mistakes in the fourth quarter, but our kids overcame those.
“All the credit in the world goes to Glenwood, and our defense,” he continued.
The Demons (0-3 overall, 2-0 WSL) forced a pair of second-half turnovers to keep their chances alive. Third-ranked Rifle (3-0, 2-0), however, got a pair of fourth-quarter stops on defense to win its 23rd consecutive regular-season game.
“It surprised me that they were able to move the ball that much,” Rifle linebacker Austin Shepherd said of the Demons, who tallied 85 of their 142 yards of total offense in the second half. “I guess we underestimated them a little bit.”
Bailey Hoffmeister intercepted a Travis Lundin pass on the Bears’ 9-yard-line with 4:41 remaining and, after the Demons regained possession after forcing Rifle to punt with 1 minute, 1 second remaining, Rifle linebacker Shepherd recovered a fumble with 11 seconds remaining to seal the win.
It was the third consecutive victory the Bears have posted over the Demons in one of Garfield County’s oldest football rivalries. Rifle is 11-5 against Glenwood Springs since the 1998 season.
“Coach was telling us before the game that we were going to face some kind of adversity, but we found a way to fight through it,” said Rifle wide receiver Austin Knight, who caught six passes for 90 yards. “And it felt great to do it against Glenwood.”
Lundin finished 8-of-14 passing for 66 yards and an interception. Derrick Chase scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:14 left in the third quarter to keep the Demons close, and he had a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter which brought Glenwood into striking distance with close to five minutes remaining in the game.
Chase played a majority of the second half in place of Glenwood running back Henry Hill, who Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth said could miss time due to a dislocated shoulder.
Whitworth wasn’t sure what his time frame could be for his return, but estimated it could be lengthy.
“This is a difficult situation,” the Glenwood coach said. “We’re 0-3 and there’s no way around it, and there’s a whole confidence level that we’re struggling with. Until we start having more success, that confidence isn’t going to get any better.”
Rifle struck first on the night, capping a 13-play, 93-yard drive on its opening possession with a 1-yard plunge from quarterback Layton Stutsman. The Bears also scored on their next possession, going up 13-0 on Clark’s 13-yard jaunt with 10:25 left in the first half.
Glenwood nearly pulled within a touchdown five minutes later, but Hill’s 17-yard scoring run was called back on a chop-block penalty against Glenwood. The Demons buckled down on defense, though, keeping the Bears from breaking off any of the big plays they thrived on in earlier wins over Coal Ridge and Moffat County.
The Demons’ biggest stop came in the start of the fourth, when Stutsman fumbled after he appeared to be down. Glenwood’s Dante Sparaco recovered the fumble and, after the Bears forced a three-and-out possession on defense, Knight fumbled the ensuing punt, which was recovered by the Demons’ Zane Lundin with 7:04 left.
Glenwood drove to the Dears’ 22, but Hoffmeister picked off Travis Lundin’s fourth-down pass with 4:41 remaining. The Demons forced a punt and got the ball back with 46 second left, but Shepherd recovered a fumble after the ball was jarred loose following a 15-yard pass from Travis Lundin to wide receiver Evrett Marr.
“I’m just glad I hopped on it,” and ecstatic Shepherd said.