Rifle hangs tough, but Bulldogs still prevail, 38-20 | PostIndependent.com

Rifle hangs tough, but Bulldogs still prevail, 38-20

Jon Mitchell
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – The scoreboard at Bears Stadium showed the Palisade High School football team’s 38-20 triumph over Rifle on Friday. The postgame reactions said otherwise.

While Rifle coach Damon Wells commended his team for continuing to hang with a traditionally strong Palisade team, the Bulldogs got a profanity-filled tongue lashing from their coaching staff.

“I was proud of them for fighting for four quarters, because I certainly don’t think our kids backed down from a fight,” Wells said. “They didn’t quit until the game was over.

Palisade sophomore quarterback Luke McLean ran for 165 yards, and the Bulldogs stayed in contention for a share of the Class 3A Western Slope League title with the win.

Not to be outdone, Rifle sophomore running back Ryan Moeller finished with 205 rushing yards on 22 carries to account for most of the Bears’ 286 yards of offense.

Yet, Palisade had an answer for each big play the Bears made – and left the game feeling that it shouldn’t have been as close as it was.

“They’re a good team, but we have to play better,” said McLean, whose team never trailed. “That wasn’t our best performance by far. We can play a lot better than that.”

Palisade (8-1 overall, 5-1 in the 3A WSL) couldn’t ask to be in a much better position after Friday’s victory. With a win against Delta on Friday, the Bulldogs could tie Glenwood Springs (8-1, 6-0) atop the league standings if the Bears (6-3, 4-2) also beat the Demons in Glenwood on Friday.

Rifle needs a win to keep its postseason hopes alive.

“It’s right there at the end of our fingertips,” Moeller said. “We just have to reach out there and grab it.”

Palisade racked up 325 rushing yards on 59 carries and got 94 yards on the ground from Ronald Kuntz, whose three touchdown runs proved a big difference in the game. The Bulldogs never trailed, but fought off several rally attempts from the Bears to keep their distance. Palisade also forced seven turnovers – five coming via interception.

“I don’t think it’s any mystery that Palisade is very well coached and their kids are tough,” Wells said. “I was very proud of our kids since they fought to the very end. It was a one-possession game at the end of the third quarter. We were in a position where we could compete.”

Moeller had TD rushes of 38 and 45 yards on back-to-back carries to keep the Bears close. His 38-yard jaunt in the second brought the Bears within 12-6 late in the second quarter. The Bulldogs responded just before halftime, though, capping a seven-play, 63-yard drive with Kuntz’s 3-yard run with 47.7 seconds until the break.

Moeller’s 45-yard jaunt pulled Rifle within 20-13 after Hector Ruiz’s point-after kick with 11 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter. Palisade recovered a Rifle fumble right after the Bears had recovered the ensuing onside kick, and McLean ran the ball into the end zone six plays later.

Cody Chick’s 37-yard scoring pass from Keaton Deere pulled Rifle within 26-20 with 4:01 left in the third. But back came Palisade, as McLean led an 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with Kuntz’s 17-yard TD run with 10:47 to play.

“Every time they scored, our goal is to come back and answer as quick as we can,” McLean said. “That’s what we did.”

Palisade took advantage of its good field position early on. After the Bulldogs recovered a fumble on Rifle’s 20 following the Bears’ first offensive play, Luke McLean’s 19-yard pass to Jamr Rhodes set up Quinn Zamora’s 1-yard plunge with 3:03 gone in the game. An interception by cornerback Ronald Kuntz set up Palisade’s next score, which came two plays later on a 40-yard strike from McLean to Rhodes.

The Bulldogs responded just before halftime, though, capping a seven-play, 63-yard drive with Kuntz’s 3-yard run with 47.7 seconds until the break.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User