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Rifle Bears football players ‘embrace’ their busy, brainy schedule

Jon Mitchell
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Rifle High School's football team has excelled not only on the field, but also in the classroom. Each of the following players have a grade point average above 4.0. Top from left: Wyatt Kinion, Layton Stutsman, Austin Boone, Brock Clark, Ethan Strouse, Joey Kosht and Cody Rice. Bottom from left: Bailey Hoffmeister, Zach Bare, Ty Leba and Chris Johnson.
Jon Mitchell / The Citizen Telegram |

The proverbial bar has been set pretty high for Rifle High School’s football team in more ways than one.

Sure, Rifle has reasserted itself as a yearly contender in the Class 3A Western Slope League and the 3A state playoffs. Two consecutive league championships, along with a 25-game regular-season winning streak that was snapped earlier this season, prove that.

The expectations, however, also extend into the classroom.



Approximately half of the football team’s players have grade point averages of at least 3.5 or greater. To go along with that, close to one-third of those players have GPAs of 4.0 or greater thanks partially to the International Bachelorette, or IB, program.

Between that and the constant demands Rifle’s coaches have for their players, each spends an average of 12 hours per day at school. That kind of workload could prompt a negative response for some players.



Or not.

“We, uh, don’t allow that,” Rifle senior Bailey Hoffmeister said.

For sure, Rifle has built a culture with its football players where excelling on the field and in the classroom is an expectation. Players regularly come to morning weight room sessions before 7 a.m. and, throughout the week, will go to lunchtime sessions reviewing offensive and defensive schemes. Add in practice after school, and players will typically leave campus after 7 p.m. daily, bringing home at least an hour or two of homework.

“We don’t have kids who just go home to play video games,” coach Damon Wells said.

Inside the Bears Den — Rifle High School’s gymnasium — is a GPA scoreboard for the football players. Each one of the 10 players on the board has a GPA better than 4.0, with the highest topping out at 4.714.

Those GPAs are thanks to the IB program, which includes a curriculum of college-level courses that are assessed worldwide. Grade-point averages are on a weighted scale, with A’s counting for five points instead of four points in a traditional grading system.

The classes, however, aren’t traditional high school classes. Hoffmeister, for example, was studying atomic and nuclear physics in his IB physics class. Senior Wyatt Kinion is deep into calculus in his IB math class, and his history class is studying in-depth details of World War II.

Kinion, like many of Rifle’s players, isn’t concerned about balancing the work load of football and school.

“It is what you think of it, ” said Kinion, who boasts a 4.2 GPA. “If you think it’s awful, it’s going to be. If you think it’s awful and it’s grinding, then it will be.

“We have guys who show up to the weight room 20 minutes early,” he continued. “It’s that kind of dedication that wins football games.”

All total, there are 75 players in Rifle’s football program. Twenty-six of them are freshmen who don’t have GPAs yet, leaving 48 players who have grade point averages.

Eleven players on Rifle’s roster have GPAs over 4.0. And of the 48 players who are in the program, 24 have GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Part of it comes from a saying Wells said comes from a U.S. military academy. Hoffmeister said the saying is “Embrace the suck,” with players knowing that the long hours and hard work they put in over the course of the season will pay dividends down the road.

“You’re up for however many hours and focusing on football, putting in long days and still trying to get good grades,” Hoffmeister said. “And everyone is on board with it.”

Indeed, the Bears have embraced their busy schedule — and everything that has come with it.


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