Glenwood nips cross-county rival Rifle, 34-27
For being rivals, Glenwood Springs and Rifle sure do love returning favors to each other. Their gift of giving certainly entertained packed home and visitors sections underneath a full moon at Bears Stadium on Friday night.
Rifle junior cornerback Sterling Cook intercepted Glenwood Springs junior quarterback Joaquin Sandoval at 3:37 in the first quarter. Feeling generous, he returned the interception for a crowd-pumping 55-yard touchdown.
“Our coaches put a great game plan together,” Rifle Head Coach Ryan Whittington said. “We tried to get pressure on (Sandoval).”
Sandoval, defensively, was also feeling generous. Down 14-13 with less than 15 seconds in the first half, Sandoval picked off Rifle junior quarterback Logan Gross, fueled past Rifle’s offense via the left side and, in highlight-reel fashion, eventually dove to hit the pylon for a good touchdown.
“It’s a great high school football game,” Whittington said. “There was back and forth, and I got so much respect for their program. That quarterback, he’s a special athlete.”
No surprise this game, which Glenwood finally won 34-27, came down to the wire. The Demons headed into Friday night’s game with a big win over Conifer last week. Meanwhile, Rifle was still hot (and it showed) from last week’s victory over Montezuma-Cortez.
Rifle shot off to a 14-0 lead after marching downfield in what ended up being nearly a 7-minute drive to start the second quarter. This led to Rifle senior running back Nicholas Sandoval punching in a 1-yard touchdown with 5:44 left in the half.
Two minutes later, Sandoval tossed a beautiful bomb to senior receiver Edwin Olave. This led to a rushing touchdown by Glenwood Springs rusher Mason Markovich at 2:05.
A Rifle fumble a few moments later set the Demons up in good field position, with Sandoval tossing a touchdown pass to senior receiver Reece McMillan. After Sandoval’s interception for touchdown seconds before the half ended, the Demons were up 21-14.
“We got lucky and then we took advantage,” Glenwood Springs head coach Thor Jensen said. “It’s high school football, man. Anything happens. It’s craziness.”
Glenwood then tacked on another touchdown via 27-yard completion from Sandoval to Olave at 3:54 in the third quarter.
Deploying speed and good vision, Gross decided it was again time to return the favor. At 10:11 in the fourth quarter, he rushed for Rifle’s third touchdown of the game.
“This is his second game since eighth grade,” Whittington said of Gross. “The amount of work he’s put in, it’s paying dividends. He’s not a finished product by any means because he’s just going on pure athleticism.”
“He’s good because our (offensive) line is good and our receivers are catching the ball. It’s a total team effort tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Moments later, Sandoval fumbled, this time leaving the Bears with good field position. Gross, his legs still churning, scored another rushing touchdown with 7:92 left in the game.
Again — still feeling generous — Glenwood decided to return the favor. Markovich would take a Sandoval pitch and rush for a touchdown at the 2:50 mark. In response, Rifle would get as close as the Demons’ 35-yard line to set up Gross for long touchdown pass attempts to try and tie the game.
Gross, however, made his last throw with 1.5 seconds remaining in vain. McMillan intercepted the pass attempt, which ultimately ended the game.
“We battled back and made a few mistakes here and there,” Whittington said. “But, hey, we had the ball with 10 seconds left to try and win it, and that’s all you can ask for.”
The 3A League 3 Glenwood Springs Demons now sit at a 2-1 overall record and take on undefeated 2A League 6 powerhouse Basalt in Longhorns territory next week. The 2A League 6 Rifle Bears, now 1-1, travel to Delta to take on the undefeated 2A League 5 Panthers.
Longtime Rifle head coach Darrel Gorham, who led the bears to a 3A state championship in 2004, made an appearance at Friday’s game. He spent the entire battle watching from the sidelines, covered head to toe in Rifle gear.
He was impressed by Rifle’s perseverance in the second half.
“Earlier on, when all those bad things were happening, they could have just turned it in,” he said. “You can tell the kids’ attitudes are doing really well and they’re going to keep fighting.”
As he continued to watch Rifle battle it out with Glenwood, Gorham agreed the intense rivalry was bringing him back to his coaching days.
“Oh man,” he said. “It’s good.”
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