Glory on the line for Demons in Friday’s Glenwood-Rifle gridiron clash
Victory would spell 3A West title for Glenwood
Post Independent/Citizen Telegram
This game. This rivalry. This season. It hasn’t meant this much in a long time.
The Glenwood Springs and Rifle high school football teams play their annual cross-county rivalry game Friday at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
And this year, it’s all on the line for what could determine the 3A West League championship in this one-off oddity of a spring season that resulted when the pandemic prompted the Colorado High School Activities Association to split high school football into two seasons this school year.
Glenwood, ranked No. 2 just barely behind The Classical Academy in the latest CHSAA coaches’ poll, enters the game in the driver’s seat at 4-0 in league, following a 21-14 win last Friday over previous No. 1 Basalt.
Rifle, following a 38-7 loss at Basalt on April 3, remains third in the league standings at 3-1, though the Bears bounced back with a 63-6 thrashing of Salida at home last week.
“I anticipate a highly physical football game,” third-year Demons head coach Patrick Engle said. “Whenever we play (Rifle), they flat out bring it, and our kids are going to have to dig deep and find that extra gear … because it’s going to be a four-quarter, physical football game.”
First-year Rifle head coach Todd Casebier agreed it will likely be a slugfest, especially with the stakes so high.
“Glenwood’s No. 1, and they’re No. 1 for a reason,” Casebier said. “When you beat Basalt on the road like they did, that means you’re considered the best team, so it’s a great standard for us. Their coach has got them playing at a high level. …I’ve done this long enough to know, he’s doing a great job.”
The Demons and Bears haven’t played in the same classification since the 2017 season. The following year, Rifle dropped back to the Class 2A ranks while Glenwood — as the larger school by about 230 students — remained in the 3A Western Slope League.
But the two schools have still made a point to meet each other on the gridiron and keep the rivalry going.
And, boy, is it a doozy.
Glenwood Springs hasn’t beaten Rifle in football since the 2010 season when, on Nov. 5 of that year, the Demons eked out a 20-19 league win over the Bears.
Glenwood won league that year at 7-0 and went 12-2 on the season, riding it all the way to the state championship game where the Demons lost the 3A championship to Elizabeth, 29-6.
That capped off a dominating run for the Demons during the first decade of the millenium, highlighted by a perfect 2008 season when Glenwood went 14-0 and won the state championship with a 23-14 win over Fort Morgan.
Glenwood also won the 2009 affair with Rifle by that same razor-thin margin of 20-19 on Oct. 16, 2009.
From 2011 on, though, it’s been all Rifle, with the Bears winning nine straight over the Demons.
Most recently, during Rifle’s own attempt at a perfect season in 2019, it was Rifle 34-7 over Glenwood. The Bears, seeded No. 1 in the 2A playoffs that year, got upended in the second round by Basalt.
Sept. 27, 2019 (non-league): Rifle 34-7
Sept. 21, 2018 (non-league): Rifle 27-14
Oct. 27, 2017 (3A league): Rifle 17-14
Oct. 28, 2016 (3A league): Rifle 27-21
Oct. 30, 2015 (3A league): Rifle 55-6
Oct. 24, 2014 (3A league): Rifle 20-13
Sept. 13, 2013 (3A league) Rifle 13-7
Sept. 14, 2012 (3A league) Rifle 28-0
Nov. 4, 2011 (3A league) Rifle 32-27
Nov. 5, 2010 (3A league): Glenwood Springs 20-19
Oct. 16, 2009 (3A league): Glenwood Springs 20-19
Oct. 10, 2008 (3A league): Glenwood Springs 45-0
Sept. 28, 2007 (3A league): Glenwood Springs 42-0
Sept. 22, 2006 (3A league): Rifle 13-10
Sept. 30, 2005 (3A league): Rifle 7-3
The formula is pretty simple if Glenwood Springs wins Friday. The Demons would win the league with the upper hand on both Rifle and Basalt, and an away game at Salida (0-4) next week serving as a tune-up for the 8-game playoff slate that would begin May 1.
A win for Rifle would leave things undecided in terms of the league title until next week’s games play out.
Basalt (3-1) has a date at Aspen (2-2) Friday, with a final week contest at Montezuma-Cortez (1-3 coming into this week). After the Glenwood game, Rifle hosts Steamboat Springs (also 1-3) next week.
Much would come down to the state RPI power rankings, which currently put Glenwood in the No. 1 slot, followed in order by The Classical Academy, The Academy, Sand Creek, Basalt and Rifle.
For the players and coaches on the field Friday, though, that’s all speculative. There’s just one game to win.
“Our mantra all year long has been, let’s just go 1-and-0 this week, and everything else will take care of itself,” Engle said.
Last week at Basalt, though the Demons came away with the win, wasn’t exactly pretty.
“We need to make sure that we protect the ball,” Engle said. “Five turnovers in any one football game is never good. And, we have to be a little better with our third down efficiency.”
Same for Rifle, said coach Casebier.
“We said after Salida that we had to have a better week of practice than we did when we played Basalt — and we have,” he said. “We’re playing a very good football team on their field, … so it’s going to take a great effort.”
The magnitude of the game certainly isn’t lost on the Bears and Demons players.
Rifle senior Josh Straw said he’s confident the Bears can rise to the level of competition.
“I like a competitive team, you know? Sometimes you face teams and get 49-0, and it’s just not fun,” he said. “I’m just kind of looking for a competitive team because that’s what I play for, and Glenwood is one of the most physical teams in our league.”
Rifle senior running back and linebacker Kaden Wolf said he knows many of the Glenwood players from pee-wee, middle school and junior varsity football.
“Ya know, there’s always nerves; it’s that competitiveness,” he said. “We’ve got a win streak with these guys that we’ve got to keep up. We can’t let it down, so everybody’s gearing up.”
After the difficulties of this past year due to COVID-19, and the suspended football season, this is it for the senior corps, Wolf said.
“It’s huge. It’s everything,” he said. “These guys, they want to win, we want to win. We’re all coming to play.”
Glenwood’s senior captain quartet of running back/strong safety Garrett Dollahan, running back/receiver Stephen Morris, lineman Brady Porter and receiver Wheatley Nieslanik say, bring it on.
“This is like no other game, and I know I just have to play my hardest, hit as hard as I can, run as hard as I can, and do everything I can for my teammates,” Dollahan said. “We want this game more than anything.”
There’s no talking smack with a team like Rifle, Morris said.
“We don’t believe in that kind of stuff. That’s not how we play,” he said. “We have a lot to prove, and we just need to let our play speak for itself.”
Porter and Nieslanik remember the more recent Glenwood embarrassments at the hands of Rifle. It’s time to turn the tables, they said.
“If we can just keep those small mistakes out, we should be victorious,” Porter said. “It would sure be good to win after 11 years of it being kind of one-sided.”
Added Nieslanik, “We’re all pretty hungry to win this game, so that means we just need to come out hungry and ready to go as a team.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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