3A state playoffs: Bears find themselves in a famaliar spot vs. Coronado
Who: No. 11 Rifle at No. 6 Coronado
What: First round of the Class 3A state football playoffs
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gerry Berry Stadium, Colorado Springs
How they got here: Rifle (8-2) lost only to playoff teams Palisade and Conifer during the regular season. Coronado won its first nine games of the season before falling to Discovery Canyon, 24-20, this past Saturday.
What’s next: The winner of Saturday’s game will play either No. 3-seeded Roosevelt or No. 14 Frederick in the state quarterfinals
RIFLE — There’s something familiar about the Coronado Cougars to Rifle High School’s football team.
“They’re a pretty run-heavy team, so it’s pretty similar to what we’ve faced all season,” Rifle senior running back Bailey Hoffmeister said. “But at the same time, that doesn’t change anything for us. We’re still going to prepare like crazy like we do every week.”
Granted, Rifle is a pretty run-heavy team also, and both teams have multiple running backs who can carry the ball effectively. And both of those teams will showcase their respective running games against each other when the 11th-seeded Bears (8-2) go to Colorado Springs to play the 6th-seeded Cougars (9-1) in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at Gerry Berry Stadium.
“That’s one of the great things about being diverse like we are, because we all have different skill sets,” Rifle running back Javier Nunez said. “There’s not just one person who we’re just going to go to in a time of need. I think we all trust each other to get the job done.”
That could easily be said for both teams.
The Bears, the runner-up in the Western Slope League who are making their third consecutive state playoff appearance, have four running backs — five ball carriers in all — who have come through for them this season. In all, the Bears have amassed 3,658 yards on the ground this season, with senior Kellin Leigh (1,150 rushing yards), Nunez (886) and junior Brock Clark (859) accounting for much of the yardage.
Then, however, there’s quarterback Layton Stutsman (208) and Hoffmeister (280) who serve as running threats. Add in the 562 passing yards Stutsman has compiled as the Bears’ first-year starting quarterback, and the Bears have 40 more yards of total offense (4,220) than they did following the 2012 season. Mind you, that was with Ryan Moeller, who ended the season with 3,002 rushing yards and is now a redshirt freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“Obviously, last year if we were in trouble, we’d give Moeller the ball. That was our security blanket,” Rifle running backs coach Kory Kramor said. “This year, we feel comfortable giving any one of those kids the ball in a clutch situation.”
The Cougars can say the same thing, though.
Four Coronado players have carried the ball 50 times or more. Two juniors, Isaah Duval (996 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Austin Micci (870 yards, nine TDs), have gained a bulk of the yardage on the ground for the Cougars. Their quarterback, Joah Smith (6-2, 200) has rushed for 196 yards but has also completed 65-of-127 attempts for 1,117 yards and eight TDs.
Rifle, however, has shown signs it can defend against the pass. In the Bears’ 52-27 victory over Delta, Rifle effectively shut down Panthers quarterback Cade Gafford in the defensive backfield before pulling away from Delta in the second half.
For Saturday’s game, Rifle feels like it will be ready again.
“I think in the back of everyone’s mind there’s a little bit of nervousness because this is the playoffs,” Leigh said. “But really, we’re trying to treat this just like any other game, and we can do that because we’ve played in a lot of big games before.”
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