Rifle football edges Glenwood Springs 22-20

Rifle senior quarterback Logan Gross prepares to take the snap during Friday's matchup against Glenwood Springs.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

In a nail-biter of a contest on Friday night, Rifle narrowly defeated Glenwood Springs 22-20 at Stubler Memorial Field. 

Both teams, helmed by first-year coaches Ty Leyba for Rifle and Hunter Holmes for Glenwood Springs, kept the game interesting for spectators throughout the course of the night, as neither team was ever able to pull away with a demanding lead.

The matchup started with Glenwood Springs junior Mason Markovich returning the opening kickoff to the Rifle 49-yard line. In response, Rifle’s defense swiftly halted Glenwood’s progress, with a significant sack and tackle that set the Demons back by 16 yards, ultimately ending in a three-and-out.

Drama ensued when Rifle, showing their aggressive game plan, went for it on fourth and one, but were denied by Glenwood Springs. Momentum seemed to be on Glenwood’s side until Juoquin Sandoval’s pass was broken up by Rifle’s Sterling Cook, resulting in a crucial turnover as the first quarter concluded.

However, Glenwood Springs drew first blood in the second quarter. After a Sandoval interception early in the second quarter, Markovich dazzled spectators with a 60-yard touchdown run, putting the Demons ahead with 7:45 left in the half. But the Bears roared back. A key reception by Joel Valencia, albeit surrounded by controversy, paved the way for a touchdown by junior running back Isaac Valencia, making the score 12-6 in favor of Glenwood Springs.

Rifle’s head coach and alum, Ty Leyba, shared his pride in the team’s perseverance.

 “It feels good,” he said. “Glenwood and Rifle are always tough and that is what it is. I’ve seen this team fight through adversity in our first two games, and I’m optimistic about where we’re headed.”

Rifle’s senior quarterback Logan Gross was a standout, consistently finding wide receiver Sterling Cook throughout the game. 

The third quarter proved challenging for Glenwood Springs as key players Max Bullock and Markovich were sidelined due to injuries. Markovich wouldn’t make a return.

Seizing the opportunity, Gross evened out the score at 12-12 with a touchdown and later connected with sophomore Ryland Lane for a two-point conversion, giving Rifle a brief lead.

“Us seniors realized that this was our last chance in this rivalry, so we gave everything we had and put it all on the line,” Gross said.

The Demons weren’t down yet. With Markovich out, Bullock stepped up, securing a touchdown. An inventive pass from Sandoval to Hunter Noll edged Glenwood Springs ahead 20-14 in the fourth quarter. Still, Gross proved instrumental for Rifle, tying the game at 20-20 and then propelling the Bears into the lead with a 2-point conversion.

As the clock wound down, Glenwood Springs faced a critical turnover on downs at their own 49-yard line with 4:45 left. Isaac Valencia then clinched the game for Rifle with a strategic 7-yard rush, leaving just over a minute on the clock.

“We entered this season confident in our abilities, knowing we could achieve great things,” Valencia said, reflecting on the team’s performance so far in the season “We’re holding onto that mentality.”

The result leaves Glenwood Springs at a 3-1 record this season, with a forthcoming game against Basalt at 7 p.m. Friday. Rifle remains undefeated at 2-0 and is gearing up to take on Delta, also at 7 p.m. Friday.

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