Gould in the Trenches: Rifle OL/DL making impact two years after almost quitting the team
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
NORTHRIDGE AT RIFLE
What: First round of the Class 3A state football playoffs.
Who: Northridge (6-4 overall, third place Northern Conference) at Rifle (9-1 overall, first place Western Slope League).
Where: Bears Stadium, Rifle
When: 1 p.m Saturday
Notes: Rifle is one of five teams from the 3A WSL to reach the 16-team playoff field, and Northridge is one of four teams from the Northern Conference to make the playoffs. ... The winner of Saturday’s game will play either No. 3 Roosevelt (9-1) or No. 14 Eagle Valley (7-3) in the second round.
Alex Gould was scared two years ago, and he still admits it.
“I really didn’t feel like I could fit the role they were asking me to fill,” the Rifle High School senior said of a meeting he had with the Bears’ coaching staff prior to his sophomore year. “I mean, you look at some of the old videos, like of the state championship run, and you think, ‘Holy cow. I can’t fill those shoes.’”
Two years later, Gould has helped fill those shoes and then some. He’s a two-year starter on Rifle’s offensive line and has been a key component to Rifle’s corps of linebackers this season, among other things.
So two years after Gould was scared that he wouldn’t be able to live up to the level of expectations that Rifle’s program had built for itself, he’s become part of an offensive line that has helped produce one of the scariest rushing attacks in Class 3A. And the sixth-seeded Bears (9-1 overall) will bring that offense into the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs when they host No. 11 Northridge (6-4). Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at Bears Stadium.
Gould, Rifle’s starting right guard for the past two seasons, was able to hold his own playing as a freshman against players who were his own size and age. Gould and Rifle’s coaching staff, however, admitted that the transition to varsity wound up being struggle for him as a sophomore playing against bigger, stronger and more-experienced players.
Football wasn’t the only thing that was on Gould’s mind, however, as a death in his family — he had a cousin who attended Coal Ridge High who committed suicide — was also weighing heavily on his mind. That issue wasn’t brought up, however, when Gould came to the coaching staff prior to the 2012 season and told them he wanted to quit.
It was a conversation the coaching staff never thought they’d be having.
“That was a complete and total surprise,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “You could really tell that something was really heavy on his heart, and it wound up being a very emotional conversation.
“But man,” Wells continued. “What a great career he’s had since then.”
Gould said that even though he expressed his own uncertainties about being able to fill the role that so many other players had filled so well even prior to the 2012 season when Rifle went to the 3A state title game, Wells and the coaching staff emphasized that it wasn’t necessary for him to step in right away. So Gould split time between the junior varsity and varsity that year, taking pride in knowing that as a special teams player on Rifle’s kickoff and kick-return team, he was one of the first players on the team who saw action on the field. He also hit the weight room with his teammates with working on his individual blocking and tacking techniques — with a sense of humor.
“Coach [John] Scraebeck had us pushing sleds with dodgeballs, and we’d have to hold the dodgeballs with our arms while we pushed the sleds,” Gould said. “If we dropped the ball, we had to run.”
Then he added: “I ran a lot.”
But that, along with his time in the weight room, made a big difference. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound right guard can squat 450 pounds and is part of an offensive line that has helped produce an average of 294.2 rushing yard per game, which is ranked fourth in Class 3A. And along with earning all-league honors last season, Gould has recorded 55 tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks this season as a linebacker for the Bears.
That’s a far cry from what he thought he’d be doing with the football team prior to his sophomore year.
Needless to say, he’s not scared anymore.
“I thought I was just some kid who was going to just stand on the sideline the whole game,” Gould said. “I mean, being on the sideline is awesome too, but you want to be part of those Friday night lights on the field. But being where I am right now, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
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