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Bulldog football downs Rifle in first win over Bears in a decade

Rifle’s Dante Rios hauls in a catch and rushes the ball upfield against Moffat County defenders at home Friday.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press

When Moffat County High School football started 2A West League play, they did so with a victory over a team they hadn’t beaten since 2015.

But they were by no means done breaking cold streaks.

MCHS went to 2-0 in the conference Friday night with a 46-13 rout of the Rifle Bears, a team the crew in blue and white have not defeated since a 2010 overtime W at the Bulldog Proving Grounds.

The yet-undefeated Dogs, now 6-0, were also playing in their fourth straight Homecoming game — the first being their own — having spoiled the occasion for Kennedy and Basalt before laying a beatdown on the Bears. After a shortened spring season that saw them take the state title earlier this year, the Bears have had an unceremonious start to fall 2021, 2-4 and winless in the league.

Apart from playing in different seasons last year, MCHS has regularly found Rifle a fearsome opponent, often falling by towering numbers to the Bears.

However, MCHS head coach Lance Scranton said there was a conscious effort among players not to be intimidated.

“We were trying to send a message that we’re not the same old Bulldogs,” he said. “The kids played well.”

Finding their feet

As opposed to last week, when both Moffat County and Rifle were playing in rainy conditions — in Basalt and Aspen, respectively — the precipitation leading up to the match suddenly stopped about an hour before kickoff.

However, the Rifle field was no less slick, making for a few early plays that looked straight out of a Three Stooges short as rush attempts on both sides saw players’ feet go flying out from under them.

Still, Bulldog backs Evan Atkin, Ethan Hafey and Taran Teeter got the ball and the clock moving with a good ground attack on their second drive, ending the first quarter scoreless but in premium position on the 1-yard line.

No sooner had the second frame started than MoCo quarterback Ryan Peck fought his way up the middle and bent over the goal line for the score, following that touchdown with the PAT, one of four times during the night he’d successfully split the uprights.

The Bears were forced to punt after a sack of Rifle QB Trey Caldwell and a near-interception by Moffat’s Johnny Lopez. Peck’s first pass of the evening went to Atkin for 33 yards to promptly get in Rifle territory, and Atkin picked up six points moments later on a 25-yard sweep as he straddled the sideline on the TD run, the first of five times he’d get to the end zone.

Atkin, the Dogs’ leading rusher, also earned exceptional receiving numbers for the night. Peck connected with him again on the next drive — after the Bulldogs shut down the Bears in the red zone — and Atkin shed several tackles as part of an 85-yard TD reception, the longest yet this season for the Dogs.

Back-and-forth battle

With 21-0 flashing from the scoreboard at halftime, things got worse before they got better for Rifle, as Moffat County’s Carson Miller earned the first of two interceptions on the night shortly after the second half kickoff.

Atkin ran it home twice more in quick succession — once from 11 yards out and another from 5 — to threaten a running clock at 33-0 midway through the third quarter.

The Rifle offense began to gain steam from there, with Caldwell connecting with Eduen Pena in the air, and Toto Fletchall breaking through the Moffat defense to get set up to score.

Rifle quarterback Trey Caldwell winds up on a pass attempt against Moffat County at home Friday.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press

Caldwell faked a handoff and ran it in himself for a 5-yard TD to deny the Dogs the shutout, but the Bears’ attempt at an onside kick backfired as Moffat County’s Austin Behrman grabbed the ball hot off the bounce and bolted all the way to Rifle’s 15-yard line.

Though Behrman rarely touches the pigskin as a lineman, he said he was happy to contribute however needed.

“I think we all worked really good as a team tonight,” he said.

Atkin scored for the final time that night on a 6-yard jaunt that ended with him hopping over the goal line just before the fourth quarter began.

After the second pickoff claimed by Miller, Peck targeted Logan Hafey and Myles Simpson to maneuver down the field before sending it to Ethan Hafey for the 11-yard TD, after which Rifle caught a consolation prize with a deflection of the extra point.

The Bears picked up back-to-back interceptions — shortly after a Rifle fumble forced by Ethan Hafey and recovered by Behrman — and got their score up to double digits with a highly contested catch in the end zone by Peyton Prettyman with about 90 seconds remaining on the clock. MCHS returned the favor by blocking the PAT.

Though Rifle had one more shot at Homecoming glory after a successful onside kick, the game ended with Logan and Ian Hafey sharing credit for a sack by smothering Caldwell like country gravy.

First-year Rifle head coach Ryan Whittington said he appreciated the effort late in the night.

“By then, it was already out of reach, but our kids are gonna fight and battle. Just not enough tonight,” he said. “We have so many little things we need to correct, it’s not even funny. We’re gonna keep grinding and get better.”

Back in blue

Rifle could take some solace in being the highest-scoring losing team of the league Friday night; while Basalt rebounded from their loss to Moffat County with a 48-12 defeat of Coal Ridge, the biggest deficit was in Aspen as the Skiers were pummeled 56-0 by Delta.

The coming week sees Rifle host Coal Ridge and Basalt take their shot at Delta, while Bulldog football is back home after three consecutive road games, facing off against Aspen, who stand at 2-4 overall and 1-1 in the 2A West.

MCHS remains the only undefeated team of the bunch, and that brings with it both pressure and pride, said Alex Musgrave.

“It’s a weird feeling, but it feels good,” the Bulldog senior said of the team’s ongoing hot streak. “It brings a lot of pride to our school. We had something to prove tonight, and we did it.”

Basalt pulls away against Coal Ridge

The Basalt High School football team started strong and ended strong, with some sloppy play in between, during Friday’s 48-12 win at Coal Ridge.

The Longhorns led 21-0, scoring on their first three possessions, after a quarter, but had the offense stall for a while and took that same score into the halftime break. The Titans briefly got back into the game with an 80-yard Brandon Short touchdown run that made it 21-6 only seconds into the third quarter, but BHS answered with its own score and led 28-6 going into the fourth.

Basalt pulled away from there, scoring 20 points in the final frame to eventually win by 30 points over the still winless Titans.

BHS, ranked No. 7 in 2A this week, improved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in WSL play. It was a needed victory coming off last week’s 19-6 homecoming loss to Moffat County. Coal Ridge fell to 0-6 overall and 0-2 in WSL play; the Titans lost 63-0 to Delta last week.

Midweek preps roundup: Coal Ridge soccer back in the win column

Roaring Fork High School football players practice passing and coverage on Oct. 6.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

BOYS SOCCER

Coal Ridge @ Basalt, Oct. 5

The Coal Ridge boys soccer team rebounded from its first conference loss of the season with a 7-0 trouncing of Basalt on Tuesday.

The Titans scored four first-half goals and padded their lead with three in the second to down the Longhorns. Coal Ridge improved to 3-1 in league play to hold onto second place between the 6-0 Roaring Fork Rams, who topped the Titans 5-0 on Sept. 30, and the 2-1-1 Aspen Skiers.

The Titans were 8-2 on the season entering Thursday night’s home match with Aspen.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Grand Valley vs. Delta, Oct. 5

Grand Valley was swept 3-0 on Tuesday night at the hands of Delta. Set scores were 25-16, 25-8 and 25-16. Sophomore Jaycee Pittman and senior Katie Ray each had four kills to lead the Cardinals. Junior Elle Gardner had 18 digs.

The Cardinals dropped to 3-10 overall and 1-4 in the 3A Western Slope League. They travel to Meeker on Oct. 12 for a nonleague contest.

Roaring Fork vs. North Fork, Oct. 5

Also on Tuesday, the Roaring Fork Rams were swept at home by North Fork, 25-19, 25-18 and 25-20.

Junior Bella Brown led the Rams in both digs (18) and kills (four).

Roaring Fork was still seeking its first league win through six matches and was 1-15 overall entering Thursday’s home contest against Aspen.

SOFTBALL — Basalt forfeited both games of a doubleheader scheduled Tuesday against Meeker. The two league losses drop the Longhorns in 3-8 in the WSL and 5-14 overall. They traveled to Rifle to conclude their season on Thursday night.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Roaring Fork vs. Aspen, 6:30 p.m.

Coal Ridge @ Rifle, 6:30 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Rifle vs. Basalt, 6 p.m.

CROSS-COUNTRY

Glenwood Springs, Rifle @ Warrior Lincoln Park Classic

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

FOOTBALL

FRIDAY

Grand Valley vs. Florence, 7 p.m.

Rifle vs. Moffat County, 7 p.m.

Coal Ridge vs. Basalt, 7 p.m.

Glenwood Springs @ Summit, 7 p.m.

SATURDAY

Roaring Fork @ Estes Park, 1 p.m.

SOFTBALL

FRIDAY

Rifle vs. Aspen, 6 p.m.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

SATURDAY

Coal Ridge vs. Moffat County, 1 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

SATURDAY

Glenwood Springs @ Palisade, 5 p.m.

Roaring Fork vs. Moffat County, 1 p.m.

Coal Ridge vs. Delta, 11 a.m.

CROSS-COUNTRY

Grand Valley, Colorado Rocky Mountain School @ Chris Severy Invitational, Aspen

MOUNTAIN BIKING

SUNDAY

Basalt/Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork, Colorado Rocky Mountain School @ Haymaker Classic South Regional Championships, Eagle

One small step for Rams: Roaring Fork High School wins first varsity football game in five years

Roaring Fork High School football players practice in front of the school’s state championship banners on Oct. 5.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

It took 1,806 days, but the Roaring Fork Rams returned to the varsity football win column on Oct. 1, downing Olathe 30-20 on the road.

No member of the current Rams roster was around when Roaring Fork last won a varsity game, way back on Oct. 21, 2016. This year’s senior leadership was in seventh grade. By the time they reached high school, the team was competing in only eight-man junior varsity. During the spring 2021 pandemic season, the program was reborn but went winless. After an 0-4 start to the 2021 fall campaign, a dramatic affair gave the Rams something none of them had ever experienced.

“It means the world,” senior linesman TJ Metheny said. Metheny is one of six seniors listed on the roster and the only one, he said, remaining from the 2018 squad. “It feels like everything I’ve been working up to culminated at once.”

Metheny saw a few wins at the JV level but was quick to discount them. He persevered through a winless eight-man campaign, a JV season and then the spring season’s 0-6 return to the varsity platform.

The long-awaited W did not come easily, either. The Rams and Pirates played through a scoreless first half before Roaring Fork came to life. The Rams tallied 24 points in six and a half minutes during the third quarter, head coach Eric Bollock said. After another score, a lightning delay stalled the momentum heading into the fourth quarter, as if divine forces were resisting the Rams’ return. Fresh out of the break, Olathe put the Rams on their heels with 20 fourth-quarter points.

The Rams held on to hit a major milestone in the rebuilding process.

“What I’ve been working on is just getting those kids to believe in themselves and their ability,” Bollock said. “Just believing that they were capable of winning was the first hurdle.”

Bollock assumed the helm of the team before the beginning of the spring season after being an assistant and leading the middle school program.

He said he didn’t expect the first win to take a season and a half but acknowledged that getting the talent he sees in his players to translate to football has taken some time.

As Metheny said, everything is starting to culminate.

“They’re learning the game,” Bollock said. “Their knowledge of the game is very young. They’ve come a long way, and they’re believing in themselves.”

Roaring Fork High School football head coach Eric Bollock directs players during practice on Oct. 5.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

But there is still work to do. Roaring Fork is still 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the 1A Western Slope League. There’s a lot of room to grow between the current state of the team and the plaques hanging from the shed at the practice field honoring the program’s three state championships from 1973 to 1985.

A townwide football overhaul that began with the transition to JV and trickles all the way down to pee-wee hopes to continue the upward trajectory.

“I really hope we can produce more, win more games in the next few years,” said Max Bollock, sophomore starting quarterback and coach Bollock’s son. “I think we can with a lot of incoming freshmen that are going to be good players and good teammates. We have a few that are leaving that’s going to really kick us in the dirt a little bit, but if everyone just keeps rolling, I think we can be pretty good in the next few years.”

Metheny is one of those players leaving after this season, so it’ll be a scramble to soak up every win he can before he departs. He has four more chances, starting with a road trip to Estes Park on Saturday.

Demons football looks to rebound with start of league schedule on heels of two tough losses

A Glenwood Springs High School Demon runs the ball during a drill at practice outside of the school on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The best place to look after a pair of tough football losses is straight ahead.

Coming off nonleague losses at home — 34-14 on Sept. 17 to intra-district rival Basalt, now ranked seventh among 2A teams in the state, and to the top-ranked 3A team in the state, 42-0, last week — the Glenwood Springs High School Demons open the all-important 3A Western Slope League schedule Saturday afternoon at Summit.

“Our goal was never to be undefeated,” fourth-year Glenwood head coach Patrick Engle said. “It’s to win the league championship and make the playoffs, and that’s still right in front of us.”

After playing in the one-off pandemic spring 2021 season, and winning the modified 3A West over Basalt and Rifle for the league title, the Demons got off to a strong start this fall with wins over Harrison (41-14), Rifle (13-7) and Conifer (35-27).

Then came the loss on homecoming night to the vastly improved Longhorns from just up the road, followed by a thrashing at the hands of arguably the best team in the state, regardless of classification, in the undefeated Roosevelt Roughriders.

“Not trying to polish it, but we lost to two pretty good football teams,” Engle said. “When you lose games like that, you tend to lose some confidence. But you just have to get back out there and play.”

Glenwood Springs Demon Joaquin Sandoval looks for an open teammate during a drill at practice outside of the school on Wednesday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The first shot at redemption comes on the road in Saturday’s league opener.

Sporting an identical 3-2 record to the Demons, the Tigers suffered a season-opening loss to another top 2A team, Delta, 27-0, and lost at 3A powerhouse Kennedy, 35-22, in week four. Their wins came against Skyview (56-0), Aspen (37-20) and Middle Park (41-7).

“We had a pretty good week of practice this week and worked a lot on just believing in ourselves,” Engle said. “We have five games in 30 days, and the kids just want to enjoy every moment.”

Three straight weeks of road games will take Glenwood to Steamboat Springs on Oct. 15 and Eagle Valley on Oct. 22 before what could be the biggest game of the season back on home on Oct. 29 against Palisade.

“Any conversation about the league has to start with Palisade,” Engle said of the Bulldogs, who’ve dominated the conference in recent years. “The league championship runs through Palisade, but we have to play every week and take every team seriously.”

The Demons have been without the services of senior running back Blake Nieslanik, who was injured early in the season. A deep offensive backfield for the Demons, led by senior Ray Rosenmerkel, junior Reece McMillan and the goal line prowess of sophomore quarterback Joaquin Sandoval, has carried the load in Glenwood’s run-heavy offense.

Game time for the Demons vs. Tigers Saturday is 1 p.m. at Summit High School.

In other action this weekend, the defending spring season state champion Rifle Bears (2-3) host 2A league rival, undefeated Moffat County (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday night, in a game that could put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat for a league title.

Elsewhere, Coal Ridge (0-5) hosts Basalt (4-1) and Grand Valley (3-3) hosts Florence (6-0), both at 7 p.m. Friday, and Roaring Fork (1-4) travels to play Estes Park (1-4) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

PHOTOS: Rivalry on the gridiron

The Rifle Bears and Glenwood Springs Demons shake hands after the coin toss at the start of the rivalry game on Friday night.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A Glenwood Springs Demons reaches to try and tackle Trey Caldwell during Friday night's rivalry game at Rifle High School.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Glenwood Springs Demon Joaquin Sandoval holds onto the ball while being tackled by a Rifle Bear during Friday night's rivalry game.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Glenwood Springs Demons and Rifle Bears battle on the gridiron during Friday night's rivalry game. The Demons defeated the Bears 13-7.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Glenwood Springs Demon Edwin Olave attempts to bring down Rifle Bear Broc Caldwell during Friday night's rivalry game at Rifle High School.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Glenwood Springs Demons react after defeating the Rifle Bears during Friday night's rivalry game.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
The Glenwood Springs Demons react after defeating the Rifle Bears during Friday night's rivalry game.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or cself@postindependent.com

 

Friday night lights showcase Garfield County rivalry

Glenwood Springs High School head football coach Pat Engle, left, talks with quarterback Joaquin Sandoval during a scrimmage. Rifle High School head football coach Ryan Whittington, right jogs off the field with players during a practice at the high school.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

The stakes aren’t as high this time around, but don’t tell the Bears or the Demons.

On a Friday stacked with three local prep football games, one stands above the rest: Glenwood at Rifle. The region’s top rivalry rekindles after an overtime shootout in the 3A state semifinals in May sent the Bears on their way to an eventual state title in the latest chapter of the schools’ long-standing back-and-forth.

“All of us want it really badly,” Glenwood High senior Blake Nieslanik said. “Glenwood and Rifle have been rivals for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t matter who the better team is. Both teams show up to play, both teams always want to win, so it’s always a good game.”

Last season, a new chapter in the head-to-head opened. On April 14, in the pandemic-induced spring season that saw the teams share a league for the first time since 2017, Glenwood Springs beat Rifle 22-15. The victory helped guide them to their first playoff visit since 2014.

It was the Demons’ first win over the Bears since November 2010, snapping a nine-game losing streak spanning as many years. Glenwood nearly got over the hump several times, with five of those losses decided by one score or fewer. The Bears redeemed themselves in the playoff rematch and returned to the recent tradition of beating the Demons.

This year’s senior class, however, has had a different experience.

“We’ve played these same kids every year since third grade,” Rifle senior quarterback Trey Caldwell said. “It’s always been a battle. Through middle school, we never beat them. Last year was my first time beating them as a starter.”

Now, two different teams enter Bears Stadium. Glenwood coach Pat Engle saw 19 seniors leave and rostered only 26 on their varsity in their first win of the season on Aug. 27.

Rifle’s championship team lost 10 seniors — and coach Todd Casebier — but returns a large core group of then-juniors. The Bears are under the guidance of their third head coach in as many seasons, as former Rifle quarterback Ryan Whittington returns to his alma mater to lead the charge on a repeat title run in the 2A circuit.

“Expectations are high, obviously,” Whittington said. “The expectations never change. It’s always to get into the rodeo at the end and whatever happens, happens.”

Glenwood Springs started the season with a 41-13 win over Harrison last week, while Rifle fell to Palisade 35-3.

Kickoff at Bears Stadium is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for students, kids and senior citizens and free for children under the age of 5.

IF YOU GO

Glenwood Springs at Rifle

7:30 p.m. Friday

1350 Prefontaine Ave., Rifle, CO 81650

Adults – $5, Students/senior citizens/kids – $4, Kids under 5 – Free

Grand Valley at Coal Ridge

5 p.m. Friday

35947 U.S. Highway 6, New Castle, CO 81647

Admission subject to ticket purchase at the gate

Peyton at Roaring Fork

7 p.m. Friday

2270 Colorado Highway 133, Carbondale, CO 81623

Admission subject to ticket purchase at the gate

New Coal Ridge coach gets first test against former mentor

Crockett Williams played for Scott Parker during his tenure as a student at Coal Ridge High School. In his first game as head coach of the Titans, Williams will see Parker on the opposite sideline, now leading Grand Valley.

An interleague rivalry that Williams was familiar with has dissipated after Grand Valley dropped to 1A, but it’s still a test to see the Cardinals in day one.

“They are in a different league now, but they’re still one heck of an opponent, no doubt about that,” Williams said. “We’re excited to get to playing and have our first game set the tone for the season here at home and show everybody what we’ve been working on.

“We’re going to play aggressive and faster than Coal Ridge teams have played in the past.”

The Titans went 3-3 in the spring season in their temporary 3A classification and graduated 14 seniors over the summer.

Parker is looking to build on the spring season in his second campaign leading the Cardinals. After going 3-3 in league play plus a playoff visit in his inaugural season, Grand Valley beat Olathe 42-8 to start the fall with a roster that added nine players compared to last year.

“We’d like to continue to move forward,” Parker said. “We’d like to stay on that track of just building the program with numbers and playing competitive football.”

The two schools haven’t met on the gridiron since Nov. 18, 2015, a 21-14 Coal Ridge victory.

The Titans and Cardinals meet in New Castle at 5 p.m. as Coal Ridge opens its season, and Grand Valley looks for its second win.

Roaring Fork returns to the varsity gridiron

Roaring Fork High School football head coach Eric Bollock, a Rams alumni, runs a pattern with the team during a recent practice. The program's proud history is displayed on the side of the equipment shed in the background.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Friday night lights return in earnest to Carbondale this week also, as the revitalized Roaring Fork High School varsity football team takes on Peyton in Class 1A action.

Game time is 7 p.m. at the Rams’ field, situated next to Carbondale Middle School.

A two-year varsity hiatus following the fall 2017 season allowed the Rams to build the football program back up through the junior varsity and middle school ranks. Roaring Fork made its return to varsity competition, going 0-6 during the pandemic-altered spring season this year, mostly playing up in competition against larger schools that normally play at the 2A level.

“We don’t call it a comeback, because we’ve been here for years,” head coach Eric Bollock said of a proud Carbondale football tradition that includes three state championships in 1973, 1977 and 1985. “Carbondale is a football town, and we’ve definitely got the momentum back. They just needed someone to turn the lights on.”

The return to the traditional fall season puts the Rams in the 1A Western Slope League along with Grand Valley, Olathe, Cedaredge, Gunnison, Meeker and the new North Fork High School, which merged two traditionally strong football programs from Paonia and Hotchkiss into one.

The Rams opened the season with a 50-20 nonleague loss on the road at Ignacio last weekend. Still, that 20 points matched what Roaring Fork scored during the entire six-game spring run.

Following another nonleague game against Peyton on Friday night, the Rams will get a chance to prove themselves in the highly competitive 1A WSL.

“I think we’re going to stack up really well against them,” Bollock said. “It’s definitely nice playing in a division your size. The upside for the kids is they know they’re not going to have these huge numbers of kids on the opposing team, and physically we’re going to be more or less about the same size.

“The camaraderie on the team is also completely different this season,” Bollock said. “If we can get that harnessed and get them supporting each other and playing as a team, everything else falls in place.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud contributed to this story.

Upcoming home games

Coal Ridge home games:

Friday, Sept. 17, vs. Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 1, vs. Delta, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 8, vs. Basalt, 7 p.m.

Glenwood Springs home games:

Friday, Sept. 10, vs. Conifer, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 17, vs. Basalt, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 1, vs. Roosevelt, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 29, vs. Palisade, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 11, vs. Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.

Grand Valley home games:

Friday, Sept. 17, vs. Roaring Fork, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 8, vs. Florence, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 15 vs. Cedaredge, 7 p.m.

Rifle home games:

Friday, Sept. 17, vs. Faith Christian, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 8, vs. Moffat County, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 15, vs. Coal Ridge, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 29, vs. Delta, 7 p.m.

Roaring Fork home games:

Friday, Sept. 3 vs. Peyton, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 10, vs. Meeker, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 15, vs. North Fork, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 22, vs. Gunnison, 7 p.m.

Preps roundup: Coal Ridge, Glenwood soccer off to strong starts

Coal Ridge junior Ezra Williams, left, works the ball upfield against KIPP Denver Collegiate on Friday. The Titans won 2-1.
Photo courtesy Fil Meraz

The Coal Ridge High School boys soccer team got off to an impressive start at the Kent Denver tournament on the opening weekend of the season.

The Titans downed the host Sun Devils, a perennial powerhouse in the Class 3A division, by a score of 3-0 on Saturday.

Coal Ridge goals came from senior Alan Quezada and juniors Ezra Williams and Caleb Thompson.

On Friday, it was the Titans scoring a revenge victory of KIPP Denver, 2-1. The White Tigers had knocked Coal Ridge out of the playoffs in the pandemic-altered spring season.

Goals in that game were scored by Williams and Thompson.

The 2-0 Titans travel to play Salida in a nonleague matchup on Thursday and face Rifle at 11 a.m. Saturday in Rifle.

In other Saturday action, the Glenwood Springs Demons scored an impressive 5-0 win over the visiting Delta Panthers.

Senior Dylan West scored the hat trick with three goals, while senior Reid Swanson and junior Dylan Nolan contributed a score each. Swanson also had two assists on the afternoon.

The Demons (1-1) next face Roaring Fork at home on Tuesday. Game time is 6 p.m.

Girls volleyball

After sweeping Roaring Fork 3-0 in Carbondale to open the season on Thursday, the Coal Ridge High volleyball team fell to Meeker 3-1 on Friday.

Against the Rams of Carbondale, the Titans handily took the first set, 25-9, before Roaring Fork found its legs in set two before Coal Ridge finished it off 25-17.

Trying to come back, Roaring Fork stormed to a 12-point lead in the third set before an ace by Titans senior Peyton Garrison sealed Coal Ridge’s counter, clinching the match, 26-24.

“I was so proud of their heart and not giving up when things got tough,” Coal Ridge head coach Aimee Gerber said.

Garrison had two aces, 12 digs and eight kills. Junior Emma Morgan led the Titans with 28 assists, and senior Bayley Jacobson had 24 digs.

After splitting the first two sets at home against Meeker on Friday (14-25, 25-23), it was the visitors who found the finishing touch with 25-14 and 25-21 wins in sets three and four to win the match 3-1.

Coal Ridge (1-1) has a tournament game on Friday versus Steamboat Springs as part of the Glenwood Springs Demon Invitational.

Other weekend scores: Rifle over Hayden 2-0 (25-15, 25-22); Rifle over Grand Valley 3-0 (28-26, 25-19, 25-23); Soroco over Roaring Fork 3-0 (14-25, 12-25, 7-25); Little Snake River over Roaring Fork 3-1 (8-25, 27-25, 23-25, 22-25). Next up, Roaring Fork (0-3) travels to play Grand Junction (0-4) on Tuesday.

Rifle softball off to solid start

The Rifle High School softball team is off to a 2-1 start on the fall season with a win over Meeker last week and a double-header split on Saturday against Montezuma-Cortez.

The Lady Bears fell 13-11 in the opening game versus the M-C Panthers, and rebounded in the nightcap to take a 15-6 win.

In the opener, Rifle sophomore Brooklyn Millius went 2-for-4 with 5 runs batted in to lead the Bears. RBIs also came from junior Hailey Worton and sophomore Blayke Hostettler (2 each) and sophomores Zoe Hisel and Emma Speakman (1 each).

The second game saw the Bears jump to an 11-5 lead after four innings behind the bats of Millius (1-for-4, 3 RBI), senior Emma Poole (2-for-4, 2 RBI), Worton (2-for-5, 1 RBI), sophomore Jadyn Petree (2-for-4, 1 RBI), junior Myia Valencia (2-for-4, 1 RBI) and senior Kaylie Stark (1 RBI). Junior Taelia Jones picked up the pitching win.

On Aug. 20, Rifle got the best of Meeker on the road 11-2.

The Bears (2-1, 0-0 4A Western Slope League) travel to play Palisade (2-1) in their first league game of the season at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The other area softball team, based at Basalt High School but including players from Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork high schools, went 3-1 over the past week. The Longhorns defeated Aspen 19-9 on Aug. 24, Eagle Valley 7-6 on Thursday and splitting a double-header with Gunnison on Saturday, losing 11-7 and rebounding to win 13-3 in the nightcap.

Next up for Basalt (3-5, 2-1 3A WSL) is a Tuesday double-header matchup with Cedaredge on the road, followed by a home game with Rifle at 5 p.m. Thursday.

 

‘It wasn’t just luck:’ Rifle Bears out to prove state championship was no fluke

Rifle High School football practices at Bears Stadium on Aug. 24, 2021.
Rich Allen, Post Independent

It still doesn’t feel very real to Peyton Prettyman.

The then-junior wide receiver and cornerback said the Bears’ 3A state championship run didn’t feel like a state championship. Most of the problem was the fact that less than two weeks after their dramatic 35-34 win over The Classical Academy on May 15, they were back in the weight room and getting ready for the fall season.

“It honestly doesn’t feel like we won state,” Prettyman said. “For me, it felt like we won another game, came back and then got ready to go again. It was just so fast. We were right back to the grind.”

It’s not just Prettyman that feels that way. He said he saw social media posts questioning the legitimacy of the title, be it from an easy schedule, the spring season in general or just general bitterness.

He doesn’t really understand the argument, but it gives him, along with the other returning juniors, just another chip on their shoulders to get another ring for their mantles.

“So if we go back there this year, what are they going to say?” Prettyman said. “That’s a big drive for all of us.”

If they do go back to state, it’ll be on the backs of many of the same players that got them there a year ago. The Bears boast a senior class 14 strong, returning 13. They lost some key seniors from the spring, like running backs Embrey Marantino and Kaden Wolf and guard/linebacker Josh Straw.

But they return players like Prettyman, starting quarterback Trey Caldwell, running backs Toto Fletchall and Gavin Peterson and linebacker Josh Avila, whose strip and fumble recovery in the final minutes of the state championship game helped the Bears protect their one-point lead. It’s also a group that saw plenty of snaps, some from many different angles, as players bounced in and out of COVID-19 protocols.


For all their consistency, one of the biggest changes is once again on the sideline, where the Bears have their third leader in as many seasons.

New head coach Ryan Whittington came over from Delta High. The Rifle graduate and former Bears quarterback took the helm in July, just weeks before scrimmages began. He’s still trying to learn about his team as the season kicks off on Friday against Palisade.

“I’m just trying to come in here and install the offense and defense, and I don’t even know who’s who,” Whittington said.

Whittington added that his new players have been resilient and quick to learn, and they’ll suit his style fine.

“We’re the third staff they’ve had in less than six months,” Whittington said. “They’re taking everything we’ve asked them to do and have done a great job with it.”

He brings energy and effort, and demands the same from his players. He plans to spread teams out and control the line of scrimmage to force the tempo.

Offensively, they’ll run the speed and power options out of the shotgun, where QB Caldwell was under center for previous head coach Todd Casebier’s veer option. They’re hoping it’ll play right into their backfield’s strength — speed.

“The speed option’s good, because our running back’s pretty shifty, and he got a lot of yards last year,” Caldwell said, referring to Fletchall. “I’m pretty fast, I think, too.”

Caldwell said the team will balance a passing and rushing approach.

The new systems will be put to the test starting at 7 p.m. Friday against 3A Palisade at Bears Stadium in Rifle, which went 4-1 in the Western Slope fall league. On Sept. 3, Rifle hosts rival Glenwood Springs, whom they knocked out in the state semifinal in the spring. After two more nonleague games, the Bears travel to Aspen on Oct. 1 to face the Skiers in their return to the 2A West. The first home league game is Oct. 8 against Moffat County.

This weekend’s football games

Friday:

Palisade at Rifle, 7 p.m.

Olathe at Grand Valley, 7 p.m.

Glenwood Springs at Harrison, 7 p.m.

Saturday:

Roaring Fork at Ignacio, 2 p.m.

Demons football eyes second straight playoff trip


Glenwood Springs football came within yards of advancing to the 3A state football finals just four months ago. A tightly contested contest with a bitter rival ended in an even more bitter fashion, sending a core group of seniors on their way and the Demons into the next era.

Reigning 3A Coach of the Year Pat Engle will face a new challenge this season. His 3A West Spring League champions made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Demons rode the wave to the semifinals but fell in a crushing overtime defeat to rival Rifle on May 8.

Three weeks later, when training for 2020-21 started back up, the Demons were without their class of 19 seniors that helped them get there. There wasn’t an inflow to match, either — fewer kids came out to play this season, resulting in the cut of the C-team and only 26 players being rostered on varsity.

“This is a different team,” Engle said. “The identity is starting to form. What we’re starting to figure out is there is no playoff. All 26 of the kids that travel with us will play. Maybe it’s an ironman thing.”

Across varsity and junior varsity, Engle said he has up to 13 seniors, 12 juniors and 10 sophomores, and MaxPreps lists 18 freshmen. It’s going to lead to a heavy dose of trial-by-fire for some of the team’s younger players and plenty of snaps on both sides of the ball for the Demons core.

Last season, then-junior Blake Nieslanik rushed for more than 1,000 yards while holding down an outside linebacker spot and earning a 3A first-team honor as the team’s lone two-way player. This season, he’ll be just one of many.

The now-senior said Engle’s coaching style and emphasis on strength will make that easier.

“You can condition and run just as much on the field, but if you’re not strong enough, then you’re not going to be able to play the whole football game,” Nieslanik said. “We haven’t always been a big weight-room team, but since Coach Engle got here, we’ve been in the weight room three, four days a week. We’ve always had the athletes and the skill guys, but we haven’t always been strong enough.”

The Demons will need that strength not only for a 4A- and 5A-loaded preseason but a bump back up to a traditional 3A alignment. In the spring season, a localized league was created in the fall/spring season shuffle. Glenwood Springs was the largest school represented and went 6-0 in conference play.

Back facing similar-sized schools, the Demons will have their work cut out for them with their reduced roster size. They will rely on their senior leadership group including Nieslanik, middle linebacker Teddy Huttenhower, kicker/safety/receiver Ray Rosenmerkel, backup quarterback Evan Heyl and others to help guide the younger classes through the flames of the 3A schedule.

Heyl, the starter to begin last season under center, went down with an injury and saw then-freshman Joaquin Sandoval blossom in his absence. Now a sophomore, Sandoval beat out Heyl in camp to claim the first spot on the depth chart outright, while Heyl will slide to a receiver spot.

“The great thing about Evan is he’s one of our best receivers as well,” Engle said. “We have great confidence in both kids, but Joaquin is our starter.”

The young passer will run a double-wing offense that Engle said is “built by a caveman for a caveman,” to utilize Heyl, Rosenmerkel and other wide receivers to create open chances.

Sandoval is just one of many nonseniors who will have to take big strides forward for the Demons. Junior Alex Cruz will play nose guard for the first time and will be joined on the line by sophomore Jake Croissant. Marcos Aragon will play fullback and outside linebacker with fellow junior Cole Sherick.

The goal is to take steps forward with a team that has lost only two conference matches across the past three seasons, regardless of classification. Before their undefeated run through their temporary classification, they lost once each season to Palisade, who ran the table through both iterations of the 3A Western Slope league.

Following their scrimmage last Friday with Grand Junction Central High, Glenwood kicks off the season in earnest this Friday in Colorado Springs at 3A Harrison High School before rematching with Rifle on the road on Sept. 3. The Demons will host nonleague opponents on three consecutive Fridays into October before kicking off league play at Summit on Oct. 8.

Preps roundup: Johnson, Cheney, Parker score meet wins in opening weekend cross country action

Glenwood Springs senior Ella Johnson bested the girls’ field at the Grand Junction Central Warrior Invitational on Saturday, winning the 5K event with a time of 18 minutes, 37.35 seconds.

Johnson’s teammate, junior Sophia Connerton-Nevin, was third overall in 19:40.66, and Glenwood finished second as a team with 42 points behind Fruita Monument (27).

Rounding out the scorers for the Glenwood girls were: senior Maria Carlson (10th, 22:28.20); senior Alexa Helms (14th, 23:21.56) and sophomore Taia Nykerk (18th, 24:41.08).

The top finisher for the Glenwood Springs boys at the meet was junior Noah Fosnaught (31st, 21:33.09).

Competing at the Grand Mesa County Line Trails meet on Friday, Coal Ridge scored a pair of individual wins with juniors Tyler Parker and Mikayla Cheney, who led the Titans to team wins, as well.

Parker won the boys race in 20:57.30. Senior teammate William Parra was fourth in 23:42, and the sophomore-junior combo of Dallin Karen and Dylan Campbell were sixth and seventh, respectively, in 24:04.10 and 24:06.60.

Cheney topped the girls’ field with a time of 24:37.40, and senior Araceli Ayala was second with a time of 25:27.30. She was followed by junior teammate Marilynn Stephens (fifth, 28:12.30), senior Natalie Smythe (seventh, 29:45), and senior Haven Prodzinski (eighth, 30:11.30).

Meanwhile, the Rifle and Grand Valley boys were at the three-team Meeker XC Invitational on Friday afternoon, where Rifle won the team title behind the 2-3-4-5 finish of senior Jace Coller (21:07.40), junior Saul Ramirez (21:07.40), senior Daniel Carreon (21:17.50) and freshman Oliver Maness (21:45.20).

The top finisher for the Grand Valley boys was freshman Craig Cotter in 17th (25:23.50)

Boys soccer

Durango 7, Glenwood Springs 1: Junior Eric Cordero scored the lone goal for the Glenwood Demons Saturday at home against the visiting Durango Demons. Durango scored four goals in the first half and three in the second. Cordero’s goal came in the second half. Next up for Glenwood Springs (0-1) is a road game at Delta on Saturday.

Palisade 2, Rifle 1: The visiting Palisade Bulldogs rebounded from a scoreless first half of play to score a 2-1 win over the host Rifle Bears Saturday in the 4A Western Slope League boys soccer opener for the two teams. Rifle is scheduled to be back in action Sept. 4 at home against intra-district rival Coal Ridge. Game time is 11 a.m.

Girls volleyball

Fruita Monument 3, Glenwood Springs 0: The visiting Wildcats of Fruita won in straight sets (25-14, 25-15, 25-12) in the Glenwood Springs High School volleyball home opener on Friday. Next up for the Lady Demons (0-2) will be a road game at Grand Junction on Tuesday.

Basalt 3, Gunnison 1: The Basalt Longhorns won their season opener on the road at Gunnison on Saturday by scores of 25-19, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18. Senior Anna Coyle had 13 kills for Basalt and junior Macy Scherer had nine. Coyle and junior Kaylee Garrigus each had five service aces on the day.