3A state playoffs: Cougars pounce on turnovers to end Bears’ season
Coronado 34, Rifle 31
Rifle 14 3 7 7 — 31
Coronado 0 14 7 13 — 34
R—Layton Stutsman 1 run (Eduardo Sandoval kick), 6:53.
R—Kellin Leigh 39 pass from Stutsman (Sandoval kick), 6:13
R—FG Sandoval 34, 9:53.
C—Austin Micci 64 run (Mason Telander kick), 9:04.
C—Joah Smith 3 run (Telander kick), 2:23.
C—Corbin Bender 5 run (Telander kick), 7:54.
R—Bailey Hoffmeister 3 run (Sandoval kick), 4:39.
C—Micci 40 run (Telander kick), 8:43.
C—Zeb Foster 40 interception return (Kick failed), 0:25.
R—Leigh 51 pass from Stutsman (Sandoval kick), 0:05.
First downs 16 14
Total Net Yards 278 322
Rushes-yards 44-132 32-278
Passing 146 25
Comp-Att-Int 5-12-1 3-5-0
Punts 2-48.5 1-44
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 4-2
Penalties-Yards 3-30 2-10
RUSHING—Rifle, Javier Nunez 17-98, Brock Clark 11-34, Leigh 4-11, Hoffmeister 4-6, Stutsman 8- -17. Coronado, Micci 25-225, Foster 9-26, Joah Smith 11-17, Bender 3-10.
PASSING—Rifle, Stutsman 5-12-1-146. Coronado, Smith 3-5-0-25
RECEIVING—Rifle, Leigh 3-128, Nunez 1- -1, Austin Knight 1-19. Coronado, Junior York 2-23, Sam Smith 1-2
COLORADO SPRINGS — Layton Stutsman and Kellin Leigh were a dynamic duo for most of Rifle High School’s 3A state playoff football game against Coronado on Saturday.
When the No. 11 Bears needed a big play, the junior quarterback and senior running back were money by connecting on touchdown scores of 39 and 51 yards and combining for 128 yards through the air.
Yet, in the end, a few missed opportunities between the two, along with three Rifle turnovers, proved costly as the Bears were eliminated from postseason play in a 34-31 loss to No. 6 Coronado at Garry Berry Stadium.
Stutsman’s fourth-down pass with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and Rifle trailing 28-24, was intercepted by Coronado’s Zeb Foster, and the Bears watched the Coronado linebacker march his way 40 yards down the visiting team’s sideline for a touchdown to seal Rifle’s fate in front of a raucous Coronado home crowd.
“They were physical, and I think we matched them really well,” said Stutsman, who connected with Leigh for a 51-yard score with 5.6 seconds remaining. “But it just came down to little things.”
Foster (17 tackles) credited Rifle for being a tenacious team.
“Those are some tough boys over there on the West Slope,” he said. “We knew they would be tough. They are all physical.”
It was a desperation attempt for Rifle after the Bears failed to capitalize from the Coronado 32-yard line with 10 minutes remaining when Stutsman threw a beautiful ball on second down to Leigh in double coverage that went just off the senior’s finger tips in the end zone.
Stutsman was then drilled on third down by Corbin Bender and fumbled the ball over to Coronado defensive end Melvin Harvy with Rifle holding a 24-21 advantage.
Four plays later, Coronado’s pinball-wizard tailback, Austin Micci, stiff-armed two Rifle defenders on a left-side stretch play before slipping through another opponent’s arms and galloped for a 40-yard score to give the Cougars a 28-24 lead with 8:43 to go.
Micci also had a 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and finished with 225 yards on 25 carries to lift the Coronado offense that was without leading rusher Isaah Duvall.
Stutsman, who finished 5-for-12 for a season-high 146 yards through the air, was at a loss for words about the sack and fumble following the game.
“I don’t know,” he paused. “I just … yeah, I don’t know.”
Rifle coach Damon Wells said the Bears, who entered the game averaging more than 365 yards per game on the ground, were prepared to throw the ball if Coronado stacked the box. For most of the second half that was the case, and the Cougars dared Stutsman to try and beat them while holding Rifle to 132 yards on the ground.
“If they are going to line up without a safety then we’re going to throw it where he should be,” Wells said. “We had success with it twice, almost three times.”
Instead, Coronado got its first state playoff victory since 1991 and will face No. 3 Roosevelt in the second round.
“They should be proud,” Wells concluded. “It’s been a while.”
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