Rifle stunned in 3A title game
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
AURORA, Colorado – On the first play from scrimmage for the Rifle Bears, quarterback Adam Rice took a quick drop and lofted a 29-yard completion to Aaron Wagler.
On the next two plays, Kellin Leigh ran for seven and Isaac Rider for three.
The Bears made it clear from the start that they had more than just Ryan Moeller
It was equally clear that the Silver Creek game plan was to stop the between-the-tackles running of Moeller.
With stout linebacker play, Moeller found the going tough for most of the first half.
All season long, the Bears have used the big play to dominate their opponents. But on Saturday, Silver Creek yanked the curtain on the Bears’ big-play show.
In the first half, the play selection for the Bears was 26 runs and 10 pass plays. Silver Creek took a 17-7 lead into the half, utilizing a handful of big plays of their own.
“They jumped up on us early and we had to hurry at the end and that’s not really our style,” Rice said.
After Silver Creek upped the lead to 26-7, the Bears fought back and Moeller twisted in from the 2 to begin the fourth quarter. Rice popped Leigh between the numbers for the 2-point conversion.
With less than eight minutes to go, Rifle still had a chance, but a trick play was no treat for the Bears, and the result was a nightmarish throw from Moeller on a halfback pass. The ball was intercepted and Silver Creek added another score.
Leigh, who was the outside running threat for the Bears, finished with 116 yards on 15 carries.
“It wasn’t really part of the game plan early, but it worked and we kept running it,” Leigh said about him running outside.
Rifle head coach Damon Wells said they always put in a game plan to be as diverse as possible.
In virtually every game this season, the Bears haven’t had to be diverse since Moeller racked up huge yardage and big plays.
“We have a plan to go inside, outside and throw the ball every single week,” Wells said. “Every defense can align to take away certain things, but not everything. They had a great plan, they have a great staff and great kids – they got us today.”
In the first half, the game seemed to turn on a few plays where Sliver Creek executed and the Bears just missed.
With the score tied at 7-7, Rifle’s defense forced a three-and-out and was driving.
On the drive, Moeller had seven carries for 36 yards. Then, on third-and-6 from the 47, Rice floated a piercing spiral that just ticked off Rider’s fingertips. It would have been a huge play. Instead, Silver Creek promptly took the punt and snatched back the momentum with a six-play drive to take a 14-7 lead.
For the most part on Saturday, the Bears’ offense sputtered and the big plays never came.
Even with Moeller rushing for 142 yards and Leigh adding 116 yards, the lack of big plays and four turnovers haunted the Bears.
As the Bears ground out tough yard after tough yard – averaging a little over five yards a carry – the Silver Creek passing game was as precise as a Swiss timepiece. Quarterback Ben Sjobakken only missed eight of his 28 passes and threw for 236 yards.
Rifle actually had more first downs – 21 to 18 – than Silver Creek.
Moeller, coming in averaging more than 11 yards a carry, averaged less than five yards a carry. Leigh found success getting to the corners and averaged close to eight yards on his 15 carries.
A disappointed Wells, who for the second time came up short in the title game as the head coach for the Bears, said the lone loss of the season shouldn’t completely overshadow the legacy of the senior class.
“These kids have done so much from their freshman year on that there’s no way that we’d allow just one day to define who we are,” he said. “A state championship would have been fantastic. We’d have gotten some really cool T-shirts, but ultimately these kids went 24-2 as juniors and seniors.”
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