Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Roosevelt head football coach Noland Eastin watched the film and quickly came to a conclusion.
Rifle plays football a lot like Roosevelt plays football.
“They play football the right way,” said the first-year Rough Riders frontman. “They’ve got hard-nosed players and a lot of pride. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Rifle head coach Damon Wells’ assessment of Roosevelt doesn’t stray far from Eastin’s thoughts on the Bears.
“Roosevelt seems to be a team that would be in the Western Slope League,” Wells said. “They play a style of ball that’s physical. They like to run the football. … They’re incredibly physical.”
For both teams, who will meet in Rifle in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday, physical translates to devastating ground games and taut, stingy defenses.
“If you like to watch the NFL on Sundays, this probably isn’t going to be your kind of game,” Wells joked.
Rifle’s run game attacks teams from multiple angles.
RM2K would be a fitting nickname for junior Ryan Moeller, who leads the Bears’ rushing assault from a statistical perspective. His 2,198 yards are tops in Class 3A according to MaxPreps.com. He’s found the end zone 20 times.
But Rifle, seeded fourth in the 16-team 3A bracket, is so much more than Moeller.
Emblematic of the team’s selfless approach to the game, the Bears are comfortable putting the ball in anyone’s hands. Whatever it takes to win is what Rifle does.
“Our wide receivers could be the first people to complain, but they never do,” Wells said. “Our quarterback could complain, but he never does. We do spread the ball around.”
Senior Brandon Kittle’s 1,127 yards and 17 touchdowns speak to that.
“I think sometimes people get lost behind Ryan Moeller’s numbers and think that’s where everything goes,” Wells said. “If you look a little deeper, though … nine weeks into the season, one of our guys noticed Brandon Kittle was the ninth-leading rusher in the state.”
And quarterback Adam Rice can throw it a little. In last week’s 32-27 win over Glenwood Springs that polished off a 10-0 regular season for the Bears, the junior completed 4 of 6 passes for 117 yards. He found senior Taylor Webb twice for 102 of those yards.
No. 13 Roosevelt (8-2) spreads the ball around as well.
Christian Kratz is the Rough Riders’ leading rusher with 790 yards and 11 scores. Marcus Holguin is a not-so-distant second with 751 yards and nine TDs. Juan Sanchez nearly reached the 600-yard mark, amassing 592 yards and six TDs.
“We’re a run-first team,” Eastin said. “We run the flexbone. We’re a triple-option team. We try to take what’s there a little bit. Defensively, we try to run a similar approach to what Rifle does. We tackle well.
“It’s just good, old-fashioned high school football.”
Eastin took over as head coach at the Johnstown school this year. His dad, Ed, enjoyed a long and successful run as the program’s head coach, holding the job from 1996 to 2010.
The Rough Riders haven’t skipped a beat under their new leader.
“We’ve done well,” the younger Eastin said. “We have a great group of guys who are easy to coach. When you have a good group like that, it’s made my life easy for my first year. It’s been a fun learning experience.”
Saturday promises to be another learning experience for the young coach and his team.
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