Moving on: Five Rifle High seniors move on to play college sports
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
RIFLE — It’s been an awfully long time since Rifle High School’s football team has had four former players move on to play at the college level. In fact, it may not have ever happened.
“I don’t think that we’ve had that many go on during my time here,” Rifle High coach Damon Wells said. “It just goes to show what kind of kids we have come through this program.”
The Bears, in fact, have five players moving on to play sports in college, with four of them moving on to play college football. Each one of those former Rifle High football players signed their letters of intent during a ceremony at the high school on May 13.
Three of those former Rifle football players — Brooks Pressler, Jose Prado and Austin Shepard — will attend Colorado Mesa University next year. Pressler and Shepard will play football, and Prado will compete on the wrestling team. Brock Clark will play football for the University of Northern Colorado, and Layton Stutsman will play quarterback for Central College, an NCAA Division III school in Pella, Iowa.
Prado is coming off a banner year on the wrestling mat, finishing fourth in the Class 3A State Championships at the heavyweight division. He finished with a 34-8 record, with each of his losses coming against opponents who were ranked among the state’s Top 5 in 3A.
It wasn’t so much the on-mat success but the aggressive style he uses that caught the attention of Mesa coaches.
“He [coach Chuck Pipher] said he’s never seen a heavyweight that can shoot,” said Prado, referring to the move most commonly used in wrestling to score a takedown. “That’s the thing he said he liked the most about me.”
Another former Rifle wrestler, Mesa senior James Martinez, won a Division II national championship at 157 pounds earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Mesa will get a Rifle High player from the Bears’ offense and defense.
Shepard, a two-time, first-team all-state selection and a three-year starter at linebacker for the Bears, was recruited to play defense. His body frame (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) is small even for a small-college football linebacker, but his overall strength is what Wells said made Mesa coaches take a second look at him.
“I’m just happy that I have a chance to play in college,” Shepard said.
Pressler, who was a go-to player in the Bears’ Wing-T offense before an ankle injury in early October slowed him for the remainder of the season, is expected to play as a slotback in the Mavericks’ spread offense.
Clark, who announced on the NCAA’s national signing day back in February that he would be attending UNC in Greeley, will likely play linebacker for the Bears.
Stutsman, who was a three-year starter for the Bears at multiple positions, was the starting quarterback this past year and helped lead Rifle into its second Class 3A state championship in three years. He’ll have to make a transition into Central’s pistol offense, which features a lot more passing than Rifle’s scheme but, similarly, incorporates a lot of play action and motion.
Stutsman feels it’s a transition he can easily make.
“I fully expect to compete for the starting job,” Stutsman said.
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