Pueblow-out: Rifle routs Pueblo, 56-6
Post Independent Staff
PUEBLO – Kellin Leigh cut off to the right and into the open field. There was no stopping him.
And, in Saturday’s Class 3A football state semifinal against Pueblo East, there was no stopping Rifle High School.
Leigh’s 74-yard touchdown run, which came on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage, got the ball rolling on a 56-6 rout at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.
“You know, it was exciting to get the ball into the end zone that quick,” Leigh said. “It puts us at a great advantage.”
It certainly did.
The points kept coming for top-seeded Rifle, which improved to 13-0 and will face No. 10 Silver Creek (11-2) in next weekend’s state title game at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.
Like the weather in Pueblo on Saturday, the Bears were hot. While temperatures in the mid-70s belied the norm for this time of year in Colorado, Rifle’s red-hot ways are very much customary.
With the one-sided victory, the Bears pushed their season point total to 579. They’ve surrendered just 75.
Although his team has been blowing foes out all season, Rifle quarterback Adam Rice didn’t anticipate a lopsided count on Saturday, not in a state semifinal game.
“Going in, we were thinking this was going to be a nail-biter,” the senior relayed. “We were thinking it’s going to be close, that we’d need a field goal or something to win the game. Things went well for us. Things fell in our favor.”
Leigh, who got the Bears rolling with his long run, had a day he’ll never forget.
The junior running back rushed for 106 yards and two scores on seven carries and caught an 80-yard TD pass from Rice early in the second quarter.
In fact, the Rice-to-Leigh connection might have been the game’s knockout blow.
Down 14-0 and looking to claw back into the game, Pueblo East drove the ball all the way to the Rifle 7-yard line before a big hit by Ryan Moeller forced a fumble that Bailey Hoffmeister recovered in the end zone.
On the very next play, Rice executed a play-action pass to perfection. With no one near him behind the secondary, Leigh hauled in the pass and sprinted off for another six points.
Leigh deferred credit for his big day.
“I mean, it’s exciting, but in the end, it’s who won that matters,” the shifty back insisted. “In the end, it’s not going to be who scored how many touchdowns. It’s who won. Without all other 10 guys, we wouldn’t have gotten the ball in the end zone.”
Yards were there for the taking for Moeller, too. The senior back rushed for 207 yards and three scores on 17 carries.
Moeller’s 7-yard TD run early in the third quarter put Rifle up, 42-0, kicking the mercy rule into effect. When a team builds a lead of 40 or more points in Colorado high school football, the clock runs for the remainder of the game. Only timeouts, injuries and breaks between quarters bring time to a halt.
“It’s crazy,” sophomore linebacker Austin Shepherd said. “I never thought we’d have a running clock in the semifinal.”
It may have seemed crazy to Shepherd and the Bears, who are careful to overlook no opponent, but the score likely didn’t elicit as much as a flinch from high school football enthusiasts throughout Colorado.
“They’re a darn good football team,” Pueblo East coach David Ramirez said. “I thought they executed well. They played mistake-free football and that’s one of the things we always try to stress. They executed better than us this afternoon.”
Derion Ibarra led Ramirez’s Eagles, who finished up the season at 10-3 overall, with 172 yards on 21 carries. Pueblo East’s lone TD – an 80-yard pass from quarterback Kurt Rode to Alex Mestas – came midway through the third quarter.
While the season’s done for the Eagles, Rifle will get to work scouting Silver Creek, which defeated Conifer, 24-7, on Saturday and will be making its second straight appearance in the title game. The Raptors lost to Windsor, 14-7, in last year’s championship tilt.
Sure enough, it’s Windsor that beat the Bears, 36-15, in the 2011 quarterfinals. They’ve been chasing redemption ever since.
“We’ve kind of just focused on every week,” Rifle senior lineman Hugo Ruelas said. “But, in the big picture, it’s all been good to get here, to play for the state title. It’s awesome, man.”
At last, after 13 weeks and 13 different opponents, it comes down to one final game.
“I love it,” said Rifle head coach Damon Wells of making the Bears’ first title game since 2005. “I definitely love it. More than anything, from a football standpoint, it’s really the one thing we have to give to our community, to get excited about a week like this. I just hope we don’t let them down next weekend.”
Rifle last won it all in 2004.
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