Assembly-line football serving Bears well
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Talk to a Rifle High School football player and it’s a good bet he’ll talk about doing his job. Depending on the position he plays and the skills he brings to the table, each young man contributes to the Bears’ success on the gridiron.
It’s assembly-line football, and the workmanlike approach is what makes Rifle one of the state’s more storied programs.
“We all work together, you know,” sophomore linebacker Austin Shepherd said after last weekend’s 42-0 rout of Erie in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. “So I do my part.”
And the guy next to him does his job, and so on.
“We just do what we do,” Bears head coach Damon Wells said. “Hopefully, it works out more times than not.”
That’s certainly been the case since Wells returned as the program’s head coach in 2010 after a two-year hiatus.
Rifle went 6-4 in Wells’ first season back, then 11-1 last year. So far this fall, the Bears are 11-0. That’s 28 wins in three years.
What’s driven the turnaround? Take a guess.
“I think it’s just hard work,” Wells said. “It’s buying in, and treating people well. We love having kids in our program of all shapes and sizes and abilities, but you have to be willing to work.”
And that they are.
As junior Kellin Leigh stated after a game late in the season, playing football for the Bears sometimes feels like a full-time job. He also said it’s very much a worthwhile effort.
All that work has Rifle on the verge of something special. The Bears are chasing their first state title since 2004, a year they caught Colorado off guard with an upset-filled playoff run.
This year, Rifle is an attention-grabbing commodity.
Everyone knows about Ryan Moeller and his nearly 2,500 yards and about a defense that’s surrendered just 35 points in 11 games.
From television to radio to newspapers statewide, much ink and airtime has been devoted to these Bears. You wouldn’t know it when you talk to Rifle’s players after a big win, though. This team is as grounded a juggernaut as you’ll find.
They love being together. They love working together. And, together, they’re chasing glory.
Said junior lineman Zach Bare said. “We put a bunch of different people together and we just work well together.”
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.