Rifle, Grand Valley student athletes make year worth remembering
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
The high school sports seasons at Rifle and Grand Valley High schools this past school year were anything but ordinary.
Some teams had record-breaking seasons. Others managed to remain upbeat despite having seasons that looked forgettable on paper.
Some had stars. Other individuals basked in the glow of humility.
In each case, all of it mixed together helped make this year a memorable one for the two high schools in The Citizen Telegram’s coverage area. The following are some of those memorable moments.
Fall a learning, improving season
Youth and inexperience defined most of the Grand Valley and Rifle fall sports teams this past year. Most of them, that is.
It definitely defined the volleyball teams at both schools, while each saw plenty of improvement as the season went along. It showed for Grand Valley, which recovered from a slow start to finish 9-16 overall and reach the regional round of the 3A state tournament. Rifle lost 12 of its last 13 matches, but its six victories (6-17 overall) were three times as many as the 2011-12 season.
Rifle and Grand Valley each finished with 2-13-0 overall records in boys soccer, the Bears at the 4A level and the Cardinals in 3A. Neither cross country team had a state qualifier, and both softball teams missed the postseason.
The most successful sports in the fall, however, were the football teams.
Grand Valley’s football team reached the Class 2A state playoffs for the first time in three years, with its only regular season loss coming to then-defending-state-runner-up Bayfield. Players like quarterback Ty Scott, running backs Jake White and Tanner Zimmerman, and wide receiver Trent Reidle, were key factors to a team that earned a first-round home game against Middle Park.
Then tragedy struck. White was involved in an auto shop accident which nearly forced the amputation of his left leg, and the accident happened on Oct. 31 — right before the Cardinals’ state playoff game. It took an emotional toll on Grand Valley, which lost 21-14 in the first round and ended the season with an 8-2 overall record.
Rifle’s football team was anything but a first-round fatality. The Bears, thanks in part to the 3,002 rushing yards amassed by senior running back Ryan Moeller that paced a strong overall running attack and a small but stingy defense, rolled to their second consecutive undefeated regular season.
The Bears ripped Erie in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, got past Roosevelt in the second round in the final seconds, then rolled to a mercy rule victory over Pueblo East on their way to playing in the 3A state championship game against Silver Creek.
Rifle, however, fell prey to the Silver Creek Raptors and lost, 32-15, in the title game. Despite that finish, Rifle ended the season with a school-record 13-1 overall mark. Its 13 consecutive victories was also a school record, meaning the season was arguably the most successful season in school history, despite how it ended.
Wrestling, basketball stay hot in winter
Grand Valley senior wrestler Cody Pfau did her best not to toot her own horn after what she accomplished at the Class 3A State Championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
She did a good job of that, but her 6-5, first-round victory over Ferdinando Martinez of Fort Lupton was too big to ignore.
Pfau became the first female in Colorado to win a first-round match at the state wrestling tournament and, despite not placing, she finished the tournament with a 2-2 record. Her accomplishment earned her recognition at the Sportswomen of Colorado banquet on March 10, where Olympic gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin presented her award. She also earned a scholarship to Oklahoma City University, one of the top women’s wrestling programs in the nation.
Rifle High School’s boys basketball team won nine of its final 10 regular season games to reach the 4A state playoffs before falling in the first round to Montrose. Rifle’s girls made it a bit further, but were eliminated by the Montrose girls in the 4A round of 16.
Grand Valley’s boys basketball team got off to a 1-13 start, but the Cardinals wound up falling to Basalt in the 3A Western Slope League district tournament after finishing the regular season with five consecutive victories. Grand Valley’s girls reached the 3A state tournament, after contending for the 3A WSL title for much of the season.
Spring sees more stellar efforts
Grand Valley’s girls soccer team didn’t win its league title, but it still had a historic season. The Cardinals finished the season 13-3-1 overall, good for second in the 3A Western Slope League standings. The record was the best for most wins in a season, and the Cardinals’ 4-0 win over Denver Science and Technology in the first round of the 3A playoffs highlighted what was already a stellar year.
Rifle High School’s baseball team, like Grand Valley’s basketball team, had a strong season-ending run. The difference with the Bears, however, is it earned them the third and final spot in the Class 4A state playoffs, where they fell to Air Academy, 6-1, in the first round.
Grand Valley’s baseball team saw a happy return of another sort. White, a senior who at the time of his accident was told he might lose his leg, was a regular in the Cardinals’ starting lineup throughout the season.
In track and field, Rifle’s Joey Kuheim was the top finisher among both schools, taking second in the Class 4A shot put and third in the 4A discus at the state meet in Lakewood this past weekend. And in girls golf, Rifle’s Taylor Walters earned her second consecutive regional championship by beating out Kala Keltz of Montrose down the stretch at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale earlier this month.
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The Garfield County coroner has identified the pedestrian who was killed in a one-vehicle crash on Highway 6 in Rifle Wednesday morning.