3A state playoffs: Rifle hopes to Bear down on bigger Roosevelt team
No. 6 Rifle at No. 3 roosevelt
What: Quarterfinal round of Class 3A state football playoffs
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Roosevelt High School, Johnstown
Last meeting: 2012, Class 3A quarterfinals. Rifle defeated Roosevelt 48-34 at Bears Stadium in Rifle.
This season: Rifle (10-1) won the Class 3A Western Slope League title and defeated Northridge, 61-13, in a first-round game on Nov. 8. Roosevelt (10-1) won the class 3A Northern Conference title and defeated Eagle Valley, 42-7, in a first-round game on Nov. 8.
Weather Forecast: High likelihood of snow. Temperature at game time expected to reach 17 degrees.
With a win: The winner of Saturday’s game moves into the state semifinals against Saturday’s quarterfinal-round winner between Fort Morgan and Evergreen.
JOHNSTOWN — Roosevelt High School’s football team impressed the Rifle Bears not only with their skill sets, but with its sheer size.
“They’re huge,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “When we put up the projection screen to show footage of them to our kids, the screen fell down. That’s how big they are.”
No doubt, the Roughriders have a definite size advantage on the Bears, in more ways than one. Not only are the kids on Roosevelt’s roster bigger than Rifle’s, but its roster doesn’t have nearly as many two-way players as the Bears do.
That makes it safe to say that the Roughriders will have an advantage in both of those categories when the third-seeded Roosevelt (10-1 overall) hosts the sixth-seeded Bears (10-1) in the quarterfinal round of the Class 3A state playoffs. Kickoff is slate for 1 p.m. Saturday at Roosevelt High School in Johnstown, with the winner moving into the semifinals against either second-seeded Evergreen (11-0) or 10th-seeded Fort Morgan (9-2) in next week’s semifinals.
At least, that’s what Wells believes anyway.
“It’s a huge advantage for them,” the Rifle coach said. “They don’t have nearly as many kids as we do who play both ways, and that’s something that we run into as a smaller school in our classification playing against the bigger schools who have more kids.”
That was definitely the case for Rifle when it went to the 3A state title game in 2012, as the Bears played against a Silver Creek team that had an advantage in the number of players on the roster, the size of the players on the roster and the number of students enrolled in the school. Silver Creek went on to beat Rifle for the 3A state title, when moved up to Class 4A two years later.
Roosevelt — which has an enrollment of 815 students according to the most recent Colorado High School Activities Association handbook — likely won’t be moving up a classification any time soon since the maximum enrollment for Class 3A is 1,049. Still, the overall bulk on their roster is what concerns the bear the most.
Not that playing against bigger players is something new to Rifle, though.
“We just have to be more physical than they are,” Rifle senior running back and safety Brooks Pressler said. “One thing for sure is that we always seem to be one of the smaller teams out there, but that tends to work to our advantage because knowing that just makes us all work harder.”
They’ll have to do that against an offensive and defensive line where the personnel, according to Wells, averages anywhere from 260 to 280 pounds. That offensive line includes players like senior Nathan Putallaz (6-foot-2, 290) and senior Chico Hernandez (6-0, 280).
Those guys have helped pave the way to a Roughriders running game that has averaged 331.2 rushing yards per game, which leads Class 3A and ranks third among all prep football teams in Colorado. And Roosevelt has done it with balance, with sophomore quarterback Cameron Hurtado (877 rushing yards, 137 carries) and junior running back Christian Majszak (779 rushing yards, 89 carries) carrying most of the load. In all, the Roughriders have had six consistent ballcarriers have each game and 17 over the course of the season.
That’s where Roosevelt’s offensive diversity seems to stop, though. Hurtado is only 14-of-45 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns this season. That, however, doesn’t mean that the Bears are totally preparing for a one-dimentional offense, though.
“I think that’s just a choice for them to run the ball like that,” Wells said. “Just because they haven’t thrown the ball that much this year doesn’t mean they don’t have that ability.”
The Roughriders definitely showed that ability during the previous matchup between the teams in the 2012 quarterfinals, when Roosevelt nearly came back from a three-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter of a 48-34 loss to the Bears thanks to its ability to throw the football down the stretch. This year, however, Rifle has shown some capacity for throwing the football, also.
Senior quarterback Layton Stutsman (5-11, 165) has proven effective, hitting 50-of-95 passes for 987 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, throwing for two or more touchdown passes in four games this season. He also has a stellar running game behind him that averages 294.2 rushing yards per game, which is paced by the 1,098 rushing yards amassed this season by senior running back Brock Clark (5-10, 200). Three other ballcarriers, including Brooks Pressler, Ty Leyba and Blaine Vance, have all rushed for more than 400 yards this season, and even Stutsman has accounted for 352 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns this season.
Rifle feels like in order for it to retain that kind of production against a much bigger team like Roosevelt, it will have to be the more physical team.
“And we feel like we’ve had a lot of success playing that way,” Wells said. “So being physical suits us just fine.”
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