Diminutive Kittle comes up big for Bears
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Watching Brandon Kittle mingle with his classmates of Rifle High School, he doesn’t look like he just helped polish off the Roosevelt Rough Riders with 131 yards rushing.
He’s really the Timex watch of this undefeated team. “Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’,” as the old advertising slogan goes.
He’s also a little like the Energizer Bunny and just keeps on going and going and …
But the paltry pigskin packer is everything that’s advertised.
The quick-footed senior has rushed for 1,253 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season.
He is the yin to the yang of the big inside running of junior Ryan Moeller, who has rushed for more than 2,300 yards this season.
Kittle is the speed guy in the Bears’ backfield, and mostly motors to the outside on sweeps and misdirection plays.
“We knew that they were bigger, but that doesn’t matter because we’re faster,” he said about the Rough Riders. But really that statement was also about every team the Bears play.
“We beat them with our speed. We beat them with our angles. We just beat them,” Kittle says.
Rifle has beaten everyone so far. After the 14-7 win over Roosevelt in the first round of the playoffs, the Bears are 11-0 and one of eight teams still playing in the 3A ranks.
But running outside doesn’t mean Kittle avoids contact. Football is a contact sport, a series of collisions.
Short and slight, Kittle doesn’t shy away from contact and keeps on ticking hit after hit.
The senior also plays in the secondary on defense.
In the fourth quarter, Kittle had already carried the ball 16 times, when Roosevelt, down 14-7, was cranking up its running game.
Kittle was the only thing standing in the way of Marcus Holguin and a possible game-tying TD.
It was crunch time and this time Kittle got crunched. He flung his body into Holguin, knocking him to the turf. But Kittle remained on the ground, a bit stunned. Hanging his right shoulder, the little guy trudged back to the defensive huddle.
After the Rifle D came up with another stop, the Rifle O took over, and Kittle showed his mettle when he took a handoff and busted loose for a first-down run.
The collision on defense left him dazed but unfazed.
“They were physical, but that’s what I have to take,” he said. “This was definitely the most physical game we’ve played all year.”
Playoff football is always more physical. Sometimes size wins. Sometimes speed wins.
For the Bears, the inside-outside combination of Kittle and Moeller has kept teams guessing all year.
On Saturday, Kittle got his 131 yards on 19 carries while Moeller finished with 175 yards on 26 carries.
They each picked up a TD, with Moeller naturally busting free up the middle for a 27-yard ramble, and Kittle flashing around left end for a 13-yard scamper.
But those 13 yards didn’t come without a battle. Following blockers, weaving and dodging, Kittle took a hit at the 5, but the tenacity-teeming, gritty ground gainer kept churning. Twisting, turning and finally lunging, he flung himself into the end zone to give the Bears a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
“End zone, end zone, end zone – that’s all I was thinking. I had to get into the end zone,” he said, smiling.
Kittle took plenty of hits in the game. In the first half, twice he was zipping down the sideline and was slammed out of bounds. The second time, Roosevelt was whistled for a late hit.
Kittle slowly pulled himself off the turf and trotted back to the huddle.
A Timex. The Energizer Bunny.
As one of many little or undersized guys on the team, Kittle knows the Bears will always be smaller than their opponents, but they don’t worry about it.
“I know my team is small, too, so we just pick each other up and cheer each other on.”
The 1-2 punch of Moeller and Kittle has been one of the keys to the Bears success this season.
“It takes loads off everyone,” Moeller said. “We just have great backs, great everything. We don’t just have one star.”
For Kittle, he takes the hits and keeps coming back for more – more hits, more yards, more TDs and more victories.
He admits that the season and all the hits have taken their toll.
“I’m pretty beat up right now, but that’s the price I gotta pay to keep going,” he said.
Brandon Kittle may be the little guy toting the ball for the Bears, but he keeps coming up big.
For 11 games, Rifle’s opponents have felt the pain of losing that Kittle has helped hand out.
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