High school sports teams have excelled through the years
Sports has been a main focus for Rifles residents throughout its history. People have enjoyed everything from hunting, fishing, baseball, rodeo and horse racing to, of course, Rifles high school sports teams.Even though Rifle High School hasnt been around as long as the community it serves, the school has given its fans plenty of thrills since opening its doors in 1915 as Rifle Union High School. Back then, it only took a few months for RUHS to establish itself as a force against other Western Slope high schools. Participating in the fifth annual Colorado High School Track Meet in 1915, two Rifle athletes earned first-place honors in the mile run and discus.It would be six more years until the formal organization of the Colorado High School Activities Association, which currently governs high school sports in Colorado. Rifle Union High joined right up, as a member of the CHSAA Western Slope League. While the names, opposing schools, leagues and venues have changed in the years since, Rifles high school sports teams have remained a dominant force, both on the Western Slope and statewide.
History points out that it was a girls basketball team that earned the first championship title for Rifle in high school sports. And they did it not once, but twice. The 1929 and 1930 Teddy Bears, as the girl hoopsters were nicknamed by The Rifle Telegram, captured the Western Colorado Tournament Championship both years.Coach Barton Meeker took over the team a third of the way into the 29 campaign, played with six-girl teams, and led them to the schools first title on a 21-17 victory over Hotchkiss.Leaders of those squads included centers Marjorie Blivens and Ruth Wyatt, along with guards Margaret Anderson and Alta Gwynn.More recently, the Bears volleyball team had a slew of winning seasons under coach Beth Sass in the 1990s. Rifles girls soccer teams have advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs for three straight seasons, since 2003. The Bears girls softball team advanced to the 4A state playoffs in 2002.
According to school and Rifle Telegram archives, Rifle won its first league football title in 1934.Since then, Rifle has played in four state championship games, resulting in an overall 2-1-1 record. Their first championship game appearance came during the 1952 season. Thats when the 10-1-1 Rifle team hosted 9-1 Fort Morgan at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, where the team used to play their home games. Rifles boys drew first blood when they scored a second-quarter touchdown, then added two second-half TDs for a 21-14 win. Rifle backs Jimmy Kiggins and Jack Bessier scored on runs of 5 and 54 yards for Rifle.Nine years later, under the tutelage of legendary coach Gordon Cooper, Rifle captured a slice of the Class A 1961 title after fighting to a 6-6 tie with Louisville.The Rifle Bears appeared to have won the game after kicker Skip Schrotberger split the uprights on his point-after kick. But faith and a holding penalty wiped out the successful conversion.Moved back 15 yards on the penalty, Rifle had a two-point-play pass beaten away by a Louisville defender to maintain the tie and create a co-champion.Conversions played key roles in both of the Bears championship game appearances, and state titles, in 1973 and 2004.Running back Russell Hiner scored a two-pointer after quarterback Ray Halls 50-yard touchdown pass to Kirk Swallow for an 8-7 victory over Yuma in the 73 Class 2A contest at Bears Stadium.Kyle Sandersons kick was the difference in Rifles 7-6 victory against Sterling in the 2004 championship contest. A play before Sanderson connected on a 32-yard pass to wideout Jordan Robinson for a 6-all tie.
Football and basketball arent the only sport thats earned state titles over the years.Two Bears baseball squads, both coached by Cooper, won state championships in 1981 and 1985. And during his 24-year tenure as head coach of Rifles high school sports teams, Cooper led the 1963 track team to a Class A state title as well.Rifles wrestlers have been among the states best in Class 4A for more than a decade.Recent individual state champions include last years 4A, 125-pound winner Luke Wooten, Ryan Whittington (2002, 171 pounds), Alfonso Alfini (2000, 215 pounds) and Kris Hisel (1998, 215 pounds).Girls sports have earned plenty of league titles since being sanctioned by CHSAA in 1975. History repeated itself when Rifles girls basketball team won the 2003-04 Western Slope League 4A crown and earned their way into the 4A state playoffs the past two seasons. Those Teddy Bears the girls from 1929 would have been mighty proud.
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