Bears, Riders set for quarterfinal clash
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Roosevelt High School football coach Noland Eastin knows stopping Ryan Moeller isn’t a realistic goal.
There’s not a team out there that has as much as slowed Rifle’s senior running back, who is coming off a 279-yard effort against Erie in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs and is approaching 2,500 rushing yards for the season.
“He’s pretty remarkable,” said Eastin, whose eighth-seeded Rough Riders will travel to Rifle to face Moeller’s top-ranked Bears in Saturday’s 3A quarterfinals. “His numbers are off the charts. Those would be great numbers for a high school career for a normal player.”
What’s most remarkable about Moeller’s numbers is that he’s doing it with limited playing time. Rifle (11-0) quite often finds itself up by big points early, leaving head coach Damon Wells with no choice but to yank his starters in the name of sportsmanship.
Having studied hours of game film – and having seen Moeller in person during the first round of the 3A playoffs in 2011 – how many yards does Eastin think the star back would be up to if he had the chance to regularly play four quarters?
“I think 4,000,” the young coach proclaimed.
How do you stop a guy like that? Well, you don’t.
“You’re not going to stop a guy like that,” Eastin said. “It’s stupid for a coach to go in there and say, ‘We’re going to shut him down.’ You have to be realistic. You’re not going to be able to stop him. You’re going to try to contain him and figure a way to limit the amount of big plays he’s going to get.”
The Rough Riders have played their best football of late. They closed out the regular season with five straight wins to capture the 3A Tri-Valley League title.
Roosevelt (7-4) extended its winning streak to six games with last Saturday’s 21-15 win over visiting Palisade in blizzard-like conditions in Johnstown. The snow began to really drop in the fourth quarter.
“You could barely see the other sideline and you couldn’t see a flag,” Eastin said. “If someone threw a flag, it’s still out there.”
Forecasts call for sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s this week.
Whether or not a bright and shiny outcome awaits the Rough Riders remains to be seen.
Roosevelt boasts a run-first attack led by senior quarterback Spencer Urban, who amassed 73 yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns against Palisade last weekend. Junior Randy Molinar chipped in 90 yards on seven carries.
Eastin cited Urban as one of his team’s leaders. He also mentioned senior linebacker/fullback Josh Semmler and senior center Jakob Bernhardt, a three-year starter.
All have emerged to lead the Rough Riders’ late-season turnaround.
“We’re a slow-developing team,” Eastin said. “Our team is definitely different than last year. It took us a while to get going. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t too late. We’ve played some bad football, some great football and a little bit of everything in between.”
As for Rifle, most everything it’s put on the field this season would land in the good column.
The Bears have scored 475 in 11 games while surrendering just 35. They’ve managed six shutouts and decent chunk of the 35 points they’ve surrendered came in garbage time of lopsided victories.
Rifle does have plenty of weapons beyond Moeller, who is up to 35 TDs on the season.
Junior Kellin Leigh has 909 yards and 10 scores on the ground and sophomore Isaac Rider is up to 296 yards.
Senior quarterback Adam Rice has thrown for 512 yards and eight touchdowns against just two interceptions and Aaron Wagler, a senior, has 220 receiving yards and four TD receptions.
Defensively, Moeller has six interceptions and senior linebacker Cody Beauford has a team-leading 103 tackles and has forced three fumbles. Junior defensive end Zach Bare leads the team with four sacks.
“Coach Wells does a fantastic job,” Eastin said. “Everything’s very sharp. Their timing’s sharp. Their details shows up in the way they play. They block well. They tackle well. They took good angles. They have very few missed assignments or mental errors.”
While Eastin’s team faces a tall task in its quest for an upset, the coach is eager to give it a go. Last year, Roosevelt lost its first-round matchup with the Bears, 14-7.
“We get to try it again,” Eastin said. “We get to take another crack at them.”
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Burning Mountain Park in New Castle will illuminate Saturday evening at the town’s Holiday Tree Lighting and Chili Cook-off between 5 and 7 p.m.