3A title-game preview: Memories of games past come for Bears, Eagles | PostIndependent.com

3A title-game preview: Memories of games past come for Bears, Eagles

Jon Mitchell | jmitchell@postindependent.com

THE ROAD TO THE TITLE GAME

ABOUT THE RIFLE BEARS

2014 Record: 12-1 overall, 6-1 Class 3A Western Slope League (First place).

Number of state championships: Two (Last in 2004).

Number of title-game appearances: Six. Rifle owns a 2-3-1 all-time record in state championship games.

Season Schedule

Aug. 22: Rifle 62, Moffat County 7

Aug. 29: Rifle 56, Grand County (Utah) 6

Sept. 5: Rifle 64, Jefferson 6

Sept. 19: Rifle 35, Eagle Valley 12

Sept. 26: Rifle 36, Delta 19

Oct. 2: Rifle 49, Grand Junction Central 0

Oct. 10: Palisade 18, Rifle 10

Oct. 17: Rifle 47, Steamboat Springs 3

Oct. 24: Rifle 20, Glenwood Springs 13

Oct. 31: Rifle 40, Summit 7

Nov. 8: Rifle 61, Northridge 13*

Nov. 15: Rifle 15, Roosevelt 0*

Nov. 22: Rifle 35, Fort Morgan 7*

Nov. 29: at Pueblo East, Dutch Clark Stadium, 1 p.m.**

* — denotes Class 3A state playoffs.

** — denotes state championship game.

ABOUT THE PUEBLO EAST EAGLES

2014 Record: 9-3 overall, 4-0 South Central League (First place).

Number of state championships: 0.

Number of title-game appearances: This is Pueblo East’s first title-game appearance.

Season Schedule

Aug. 22: Pueblo East 41, Longmont 25

Aug. 28: Pueblo East 20, Coronado 14

Sept. 5: Pueblo South 34, Pueblo East 20

Sept. 11: Pueblo East 21, Canon City 7

Sept. 19: Discovery Canyon 27, Pueblo East 21

Sept. 26: Pueblo West 27, Pueblo East 21

Oct. 3: Pueblo East 48, Pueblo Central 6

Oct. 17: Pueblo East 41, The Classical Academy 0

Oct. 24: Pueblo East 47, Pueblo County 0

Oct. 31: Pueblo East 47, Sierra 6

Nov. 8: Pueblo East 35, Canon City 7*

Nov. 14: Pueblo East 28, Palisade 14*

Nov. 22: Pueblo East 39, Discovery Canyon 21*

Nov. 29: vs. Rifle, Dutch Clark Stadium, 1 p.m.**

* — denotes Class 3A state playoffs.

** — denotes state championship game.

RIFLE — There are a lot of memories from Rifle High School’s run to this season’s Colorado Class 3A state championship game.

There’s memories of long bus rides from one side of Colorado to the other, and even memories of a long bus ride to another state. There’s memories of wins, of one loss, and all sorts of things in between games.

Those memories will be around long after the Bears play in Saturday’s state championship game against Pueblo East at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.

“The single-greatest thing about advancing to a state championship is the memories that come along with it for the kids,” Rifle High football coach Damon Wells said.

Rifle (12-1 overall), which comes into the game as the four-time league champion in the 3A Western Slope League, would love nothing more than to make one more memory of hoisting the state championship trophy to end the season. Only two other Rifle football teams — back in 1973 and 2004 — have been able to win outright football championships.

The Bears had a chance to win the state championship trophy just two years ago when they made it to the 2012 title game, but Rifle suffered its only loss of the season in falling 32-15 to Silver Creek at Legacy Stadium in Aurora. Meanwhile, some members of this season’s Rifle squad, who were on that team as sophomores, are hoping to leave Pueblo with happier memories during this title-game appearance.

“We’re pretty motivated,” senior running back Brock Clark said. “We’re looking at this as more of a business trip.”

Then again, Rifle isn’t the only team with a long memory headed into this game.

“There’s quite a few,” Pueblo East coach David Ramirez said. “I would say that since then, we’ve really evolved as a football team. But don’t get me wrong. There’s quite a few of our players who haven’t forgotten the butt whooping [Rifle] laid on us.”

That butt whooping came in the 2012 3A semifinals, when Rifle came to Dutch Clark Stadium and beat the Eagles 56-6 on their way to its previous title-game berth. Meanwhile, East (10-3 overall), this year’s winners of the South Central League, has what Ramirez said are “five or six” seniors on this year’s team who were sophomores during that semifinal game.

Pueblo East has plenty of weapons that have got them there, other than their experienced starters. Among them is junior quarterback Daniel Martin (5-foot-9, 160 pounds), who has proven himself a dual threat both running and throwing the football. He’s 112-for-221 passing for 1,870 yards with 12 touchdown passes, including a 14-for-28 passing performance with two TDs during the Eagles’ 39-21 semifinal victory against Discovery Canyon in Colorado Springs this past weekend.

“This is the best quarterback we’ve seen all year,” Wells said.

Martin has also rushed for 1,217 yards on 201 carries, which is only two yards fewer than the team’s leading rusher, sophomore Bryson Torres (5-9, 180). Meanwhile, East has a size advantage on Rifle, with senior team captain Donny Garcia (6-2, 275) and junior Jacob Rolbes (6-2, 250) leading the way as two-way starters on the offensive and defensive lines.

Rifle’s offensive and defensive lines don’t have that kind of size, but they’ve still helped the Bears average 298.3 yards per game on the ground. Leading the way is Clark (5-9, 200), who is up to 1,364 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 156 carries. Clark and sophomore Blaine Vance (5-10, 160) have each rushed for more than 100 yards in playoff victories over Roosevelt (Nov. 15) and this past Saturday’s 35-7 win over Fort Morgan.

Plus, Rifle’s defense has allowed just 111 points, and Fort Morgan’s second-quarter touchdown this past Saturday was the first TD allowed by the Bears’ first-string defense in the postseason.

Regardless, the Bears are taking no chances. After all, both teams are looking for the ultimate memory at the end of the game.

“It’s a blessing to be at a place like Rifle where you represent not only a town, but a community,” Wells said. “The boys in our program work to exemplify the values of a workmanlike attitude along with those of a scholar.”

On Saturday, the Bears and Eagles will find out who can exemplify themselves as the 3A state champion.


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