Rifle downs Grand Valley 49-0 in non-league action
A physical, punishing ground attack and the occasional strike through the air offensively led the Bears to a convincing 49-0 win over the Grand Valley Cardinals Thursday night at Toby LeBorgne Stadium in Parachute.
The Bears scored touchdowns on six of seven first-half possessions, while holding the Cardinals without a first down into the middle of the third quarter in the non-league matchup under the Thursday night lights in front of a packed house. Despite the scoreboard showing a large margin of victory, the Bears were tested early and often by a physical, punishing Grand Valley defense that made the Bears work for every yard.
“I wasn’t pleased with our execution, but I was pleased that Tim Lenard and his staff did a great job of putting us in tough situations where we had to be good,” said Damon Wells, Rifle’s head coach, following the win. “They were situations that stressed our kids, and I was glad that our kids had to go through that tonight.”
Coming off of a 49-7 win over Eagle Valley in Week 1 that gave Wells his 100th win at Rifle, the Bears came out firing following the opening kickoff Thursday night, marching 76 yards in 12 plays as junior quarterback Holden Stutsman sneaked into the end zone from 1 yard out to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 7:16 remaining in the opening quarter. On the opening touchdown drive, the Bears relied heavily on junior Levi Warfel, who rushed five times on the drive for 42 yards, including a rumbling 10-yard run on fourth and 1 near midfield.
Up 7-0, Rifle’s defense took the field and forced the Cardinals to go three-and-out on five consecutive first-half possessions.
“I think we’re still struggling up front on the offensive line,” said Tim Lenard, Grand Valley’s head coach, following the home loss. “We’re working diligently to get those issues corrected up front, especially with communication. Rifle is definitely aggressive defensively, and our kids weren’t making the right calls at times. We’re inexperienced up front, so its back to the drawing board for us to get those problems solved. And then we have a first-year starting quarterback who seemed to work himself up tonight. We have a lot of talent on offense; we just need it to gel.”
As the Rifle defense stood tall, the Bears’ offense fired on all cylinders, as junior Talon Cordova went over left tackle for a 4-yard touchdown, senior fullback Tanner Vines went untouched 79 yards on a draw play over left tackle for a score, and Stutsman found Kenny Tlaxcala from 26 yards out, giving Rifle a 28-0 lead with 2:56 left in the first half.
“It just shows how strong we can be; the whole team really stepped up today,” Rifle senior Wyatt Warfel said. “It was a well-fought game. Our offense just came out on top. Grand Valley really put up a tough fight, and I really respect their program. Tim Lenard, I really respect him as a coach. That’s a good team over there.”
Trailing 28-0, Grand Valley tried to muster some positive momentum offensively, but a fumble on a play-action fake between quarterback Sam Gomez and running back Jonathan Pena resulted in a Rifle recovery deep in Grand Valley territory. Three plays later, following an 18-yard connection from Stutsman to Warfel and a 15-yard run by Vines, Cordova made it 35-0 with a 1-yard plunge.
A quick three-and-out by Grand Valley gave Rifle the ball one more time in the first half, and the Bears didn’t waste it as Warfel raced over right tackle for a 6-yard score, sending the two teams into the half with Rifle in front 42-0, triggering the mercy rule clock.
Emerging from the half, Grand Valley received the ball, but three plays later Eddie Medina ripped down an interception for the Bears deep in Grand Valley territory.
Three plays later Vines bounced his way into the end zone from 6 yards out making it a 49-0 game.
Grand Valley responded to the deficit by recording its first first down of the game, as Pena rushed for 9 yards on first down and 2 yards on second down, moving the chains for the Cardinals. However, the Cardinals ended up punting on the drive.
The loss moves Grand Valley to 0-2 on the season. The Cardinals have had a tough start to the season, opening on the road against 4A Kent Denver, and then hosting 2A Rifle. Those tough tests have helped Lenard and his staff learn about his team.
“I think it’s definitely helped us get more physically prepared,” Lenard said. “We played two really tough teams to start the year, but it’s raised our bar to where we’re trying to get. Playing these types of teams helps us realize what it’s going to take to be successful at the playoff level. It’s tough on our kids for sure, but we’re learning and growing. Overall, now we know what it takes to be a championship-caliber team. We have a lot to work on.”
Rifle (2-0) travels to Pueblo County next week, while Grand Valley (0-2) travels to Lake County.