Rifle supports team, coaches, videographer
Citizen Telegram Editor
Much of the community is in disbelief and thinks it is wrong after hearing that Rifle High School football team and head coach are being put on restriction following events that happened during the Class 3A semifinal game between the Bears and Fort Morgan in November of last year.
The Colorado High School Activities Association placed the Rifle football program on restriction following an incident that involved a volunteer videographer associated with Align Multimedia in Rifle. A press release issued by the school said that it was placed on restriction because a local media member stepped into a restricted area of the field.
Many people did not want to comment, for fear of jeopardizing the team’s status with CHSAA. But those who did speak, voiced some strong opinions.
“This whole thing is wrong,” said Carlo Leyba, whose son, Ty, is a starting running back on a Bears team that reached the 3A state title game last season. “Why are the kids and the coaches getting punished for something that was out of their control? There wasn’t even a rule about the coaching box at the time.”
CHSAA has since put in place a rule that limits those allowed in the coaching box to “only the personnel of that team.”
The restrictive status bars Rifle, the four-time 3A Western Slope League champions and state finalist for two of the past three years, from reaching the postseason in 2015. Rifle head coach Damon Wells will also have to sit out the first game of the 2015 season as part of the ruling by CHSAA.
The status can be overturned by CHSAA if Rifle shows that it has taken steps to assure the infraction won’t happen again.
While people don’t feel the suspension is warranted, they also support the videographer from Align Multimedia based in Rifle and co-owned by Ryan Mackley.
“I don’t believe they would do anything dishonest, period,” said Gary Miller, owner of Miller’s Dry Goods in downtown Rifle. “That is so far out of the realm — it’s not even possible. He would never do anything to jeopardize the Rifle football team, and I’ll put my life on that. He has donated so much volunteer time — that would be crazy.”
Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, who was a former coach for Rifle sports, said he felt the situation was simply a person being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“This person made an honest mistake,” Samson said. “No harm was done. I feel bad more for the payers and the coaches. It was an honest mistake. It’s too bad that it happened, but I hate for the kids and the coaches to be penalized.”
Stephanie Straw, whose son, James, plays as an outside linebacker and tight end, said she felt the whole situation was “ridiculous.”
“It all seems ridiculous to me,” Straw said. “We have wonderful coaches and Ryan Mackley even coached our boys. His intent was never to harm our boys in any way.”
Straw added that the team was taking the whole situation “in stride.”
“They know what the team stands for and they are 100 percent in support of the coach,” Straw said.
Leyba said his son “blew up” at one point, but for the most part the kids were OK and were just keeping quiet.
“I think the kids are going to use this to their advantage and they’ll be very fired up for the next game,” Leyba said. “I actually think we could turn this into a good thing. We’re just taking the attitude of ‘be nice — we’ll get through this.’”
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Students from Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools were asked Friday to transition to online learning and quarantine for 10 days, Garfield County District Re-2 announced.