Rifle looks to make another deep playoff run
RIFLE – Recent history has seen Rifle making deep runs in the Class 3A football playoffs. It’s a tradition the 2006 Bears would like to continue.”Our kids feel the responsibility to uphold the tradition that’s been put in front of them,” said head coach Damon Wells. “So watching the kids accept that responsibility and work to fulfill that responsibility – that’s always fun every year.”Having to replace most of their skill players due to graduation makes the task tougher, but Wells said those positions have been amply filled. “We have a lot of kids that are good leaders and we’re going to be all right in the offensive backfield and we’re going to be OK (overall),” said the second-year coach.While personnel has changed, there are still plenty of familiar faces back from last season’s state championship runner-up team to spark another big year.All-Western Slope Conference pick Tyler Thompson returns as one starting running back. The senior will also see action as one of the Bears starting linebackers where he’ll team with veteran Tim Long.Senior Colby McFarlin slips in as Rifle’s other running back. The move allows speedy junior Hazen Moss to switch from running back to quarterback. Wells said Moss has fully recovered from last year’s season-ending knee injury that came halfway through the year.Rifle’s top receiving threats when they opt to throw the ball are lettermen Nick Alderson at flanker and tight end Cody Boe. Both are penciled in for defensive duty at cornerback and defensive end, respectively.Additional offensive help comes from Caleb Powell, a transfer player from Shallow Water, Texas, whose family moved to Rifle earlier this year. “He is going to help us,” Wells said. (Caleb’s) a good kid. We’re lucky to have him. Nobody around here has heard of him.” Powell, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior has settled in at linebacker and will also see time at running back.Another new player from Texas, junior Jon Saldana, moves in at defensive end. Additional linemen include seniors Kyle Laidlaw and Chappin Everett plus Justin Stone, a junior. When describing the conference, Wells said it is evenly balanced.”I don’t think there’s a bottom three anymore. When I first got here it was us or Palisade and the battle was on for third and whatever,” he said.”I don’t think it’s like that anymore. Cortez is doing all the right things down there. Glenwood is getting better and better every single year. The Battle Mountain coaching staff is doing a great job with the kids they have – you just can’t roll the ball out here anymore.”Going back to his Florida roots, Wells looks at the 3A Western Slope Conference as “The Southeastern Conference of high school football.” “We’ve always done the same amount of work for every team we’ve ever faced, Wells said. “It doesn’t matter – in league, out of league, week one or week ten – we’ll put in our time.”And, the time Rifle puts in, could translates to a third-straight game in December. A thought Wells likes.”League championships are great. They’re awesome,” he said. “I’ve coached on a team that’s won a Western Slope League championship – that’s neat. But, it doesn’t hold a candle to playing in a state championship game. If you had to make me choose between one or the other – I’d want to be playing in December. That’s a lot more fun.”
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