Bears grind out win in rivalry game
For the second straight year the Glenwood-Rifle rivalry football game came down to the wire, and for the seventh time in a row Rifle emerged victorious over Glenwood at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood on Friday evening as the Bears relied on their defense and a late clock-killing drive to pull off a 17-14 win, keeping their 3A Western Slope League championship hopes alive for another week.
Against the Demons, Rifle’s defense came through with two huge defensive stands in the first half, forcing a turnover on downs at their own 4-yard line thanks to a big sack on Glenwood senior quarterback Brady Steen by senior linebacker Ramon Salvidrez on Glenwood’s opening drive of the game. Salvidrez struck again late in the second quarter with Glenwood driving deep into Rifle territory as the senior dropped into coverage and picked off Steen in the end zone, which ultimately led to 14 points off of turnover by the Bears on the night.
Then, late in the game with 2:11 left on the clock and Glenwood staring at 91 yards for the win, Rifle senior cornerback Clay Bumgardner picked off Steen down the left sideline, clinching the win for the Bears in a physical affair Friday night.
“Everything we saw on film, they did tonight,” Salvidrez said. “A lot of credit has to go to Coach O’Donnell, Coach Wells and the rest of the coaching staff, as well as the scout team for giving us great looks all week. That’s what came up big for us in this game.”
Despite winning for the seventh straight time in the rivalry, the Bears once again found themselves holding on late as the Demons moved the ball all night offensively, but simply couldn’t finish consistently.
Taking the opening kickoff after winning the coin toss, Glenwood proceeded to march down the field on the Bears as senior running back John Jensen took the second play of the game 37 yards off of right tackle before cutting back across the field, pushing the Glenwood offense into Rifle territory quickly. Steen then found junior Gavin Olson for a gain of six before then connecting with junior running back Luke Gair for six yards. Following an encroachment penalty on Rifle, Gair took the handoff and weaved his way for 22 yards, setting the Demons up at the Rifle 4-yard line, but in a sequence reminiscent to last season’s game, the Bears stood tall along their own goal line, which led to Salvidrez sacking Steen on 4th and goal from the 4-yard line, giving the Bears the ball after the turnover on downs.
Three plays after Salvidrez’s big sack, Rifle junior running back Tanner Vines took a wrap-around draw from senior quarterback Luke Ellis 75 yards to the end zone untouched down the left sideline to give Rifle a 6-0 lead following the missed extra point.
On Glenwood’s next drive the Bears appeared to intercept Steen as junior Kevin Tlaxcala corralled an errant pass, but the interception was waved off due to pass interference on the Bears, keeping the Glenwood drive alive. With a second lease on the drive, Steen found junior Erwin Rodriguez for 13 yards before Gair gained seven on the ground, but the drive would stall near midfield, forcing Glenwood to punt the ball away.
A three-and-out and a short punt by Rifle set the Demons up in great field position on their next drive. On the third play of the drive Steen hooked up with Gair for nine yards before Gair shed a few tackles on the next play for a 21-yard run, setting Glenwood up at the Rifle 10-yard line. Two plays later Steen fired a laser to Olson along the right sideline where the junior was able to duck under a tackle attempt to get into the end zone, putting Glenwood on top of Rifle 7-6 early in the second quarter after senior kicker Tyler Dietrich nailed the extra point.
The two rivals then traded punts before a Rifle fumble set up Glenwood near midfield. Following connections from Steen to Gair and Olson for 18 and 17 yards, and a perfectly-executed fake punt by Jensen for 12 yards, the Demons were knocking on the door again, but it was Salvidrez who stepped in front of Steen’s pass up the seam intended for Gair in the end zone, ending Glenwood’s hopes at stretching the lead on the night.
Once again, three plays after Salvidrez’s big defensive play, Rifle found pay dirt as Ellis found senior tight end Brian de La Rosa wide open behind the Glenwood secondary for a 67-yard touchdown. Ellis then connected with senior wide receiver Colton Parsons for the 2-point conversion, giving the Bears a 14-7 lead that they’d take into halftime.
“We made plays when we had to make plays,” Rifle Head Coach Damon Wells said. “As always, Glenwood had a fantastic defensive plan and more than any X’s and O’s, I’m just very proud of our boys. It was a fun night and they faced a lot of adversity out on the field and fought through it.”
Coming out of the half, Rifle marched down the field as Ellis found senior Camron Shepherd for 22 yards down the left sideline, but the drive stalled deep in Glenwood territory, ending in a missed field goal.
Glenwood’s offense got off to a rough start in the second half as a holding call and a fumbled snap out of shotgun forced the Demons to punt the ball back to Rifle.
Ellis took to the air again on the Bears’ next drive, finding Parsons down the right sideline for a 30-yard gain in tight coverage before junior running back Joel Lopez picked up 15 yards on the ground, which later led to a 30-yard field goal from Salvidrez that split the uprights with six seconds left in the third quarter, giving Rifle a 17-7 lead over the Demons.
Trailing by 10 heading into the fourth quarter, the Glenwood offense got on track as Steen found senior wide receiver AJ Crowley for 10 yards and junior wide receiver Wyatt Ewer for nine yards. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball inside the Rifle 10-yard line, where Crowley lined up at quarterback and kept the ball on a read-option, racing into the end zone from seven yards out. Dietrich’s extra point made it 17-14 Rifle with just 8:46 left in the game.
Nursing a three-point lead, Rifle proceeded to chew up a ton of clock on the ensuing possession, marching to the Glenwood 8-yard line in 13 plays before an Ellis pass intended for de La Rosa in the back of the end zone fell incomplete, setting up Glenwood 91 yards away with 2:11 left.
That’s when Bumgardner picked off Steen to seal the win for the Bears, while spoiling Senior Night for Glenwood.
“I’m very proud of our defense,” Wells said. “Our defensive staff works their tails off, and I think Glenwood is extremely well-coached. For us to give up 14 points to a quality opponent like this was a good night.”
Steen finished 15-for-28 on the night, passing for 146 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Demons. Gair added 89 rushing yards on 15 carries, while Olson added three receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown.
Ellis completed 5-of-9 passes for the Bears for 124 yards and one touchdown in the win, while Parsons added two catches for 36 yards and one 2-point conversion on the night. Vines finished with 20 carries for 174 yards and one score on the ground for the Bears.
With the win, Rifle improves to 8-1 (4-0 3A WSL) on the season. The win sets up a league-championship showdown Friday at Bears Stadium in Rifle between the Bears and the Palisade Bulldogs at 7 p.m.
With the loss, Glenwood Springs falls to 1-8 (0-4 3A WSL) on the season. The Demons will close out the season Friday on the road at Eagle Valley against the Devils at 7 p.m.
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Grand River Health likely won’t open parts of the new long-term Care Center in Rifle, including the highly specialized memory care unit, until sometime next year.