3A state playoffs: So many smiles for Rifle
RIFLE 35, FORT MORGAN 7
Fort Morgan 0 7 0 0 — 7
Rifle 14 7 7 7 —28
R — Brock Clark 25 run (Eduardo Sandoval kick), 10:24.
R — Clark 11 run (Sandoval kick), 6:11.
R — Clark 43 pass from Layton Stutsman (Sandoval kick), :59.
FM — Tate Kembel 1 run (Franny Gonzalez kick), :08.
R — Blaine Vance 33 run (Sandoval kick), 7:39.
R — Stutsman 2 run (Sandoval kick), 1:27.
First downs 16 16
Rushes-yards 30-105 45-337
Passing 163 57
Total yards 268 394
Comp-Att-Int 13-30-2 2-3-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Punts-Avg. 4-34.25 4-26.75
Penalties-yards 5-30 9-75
RUSHING — Fort Morgan, Joey Schneider 4-6, Toby McBride 14-64, T. Kembel 10-33, Frank Rosales 1-2. Rifle, Clark 19-142, Ty Leyba 4-20, Vance 15-103, Stutsman 7-62.
PASSING — Fort Morgan, Schneider 13-30-163-2. Rifle, Stutsman 2-3-57-0.
RECEIVING — Eric Kembel 7-91, Kyle Danielss 3-22, T. Kembel 2-30, Isaiah Lopez 1-20. Rifle, Leyba 1-14, Clark 1-43.
RIFLE — Tyler Bosshardt joined the rest of his Rifle High School teammates Saturday afternoon in barely being able to contain his excitement. And for good reason.
After all, the Bears moved to within one win of the pinnacle of Colorado Class 3A football after their thorough 35-7 victory over Fort Morgan in the Class 3A semifinals. So it figured that Bosshardt wasn’t the only one on the team who was grinning ear to ear after their traditional postgame meeting in the east endzone of Bears Stadium.
“It’s such an awesome feeling,” the junior wide receiver and cornerback said. “I’ve dreamt of going to state, and thought it would be so awesome to go.
“Now we’re here,” he continued, the smile getting bigger. “I can’t wait.”
It’s been a two-year long wait for the Bears (12-1 overall), the four-time Class 3A Western Slope League champions who are making their second title-game appearance in three years. And sixth-seeded Rifle will travel to play fourth-seeded Pueblo East (10-3), which triumphed 39-21 over Discovery Canyon in Saturday’s other Class 3A semifinal. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 29 at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.
It will also be the second time in three years that the Bears have played Pueblo East at Dutch Clark. The last time was in 2012, when the Bears defeated the Eagles 56-6 in the 3A semis to earn the program’s previous title-game berth.
“This feels awesome,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “A lot of these kids were with us in 2012 when we went then, and I think maybe there’s a little something in the back of their minds that since they didn’t carry the load then, it really wasn’t their time. Well, this is their time.”
Brock Clark scored three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving — and Layton Stutsman threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another. Rifle rolled up 337 rushing yards on 45 carries, with Clark (142 rushing yards) and Blaine Vance (103 rushing yards) each surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark for the second consecutive game.
Meanwhile, the Bears limited 10th-seeded Fort Morgan (10-3) to just 105 rushing yards and just 108 total yards for the first 12 minutes of the game. So with the Mustangs’ offense not able to get on track, Rifle took advantage to the tune of a 21-0 lead on Layton Stutsman’s 43-yard scoring pass to Clark with 59.9 seconds remaining before halftime.
Fort Morgan responded when it had to, though, driving 73 yards in about 45 seconds to pull within 21-7 on a 1-yard TD plunge from tailback Tate Kembel with 8.3 seconds remaining before halftime.
“We did good things today, and it’s not like we couldn’t do anything well,” Fort Morgan coach Harrison Chisum said. “But I’m the kind of coach that will give credit where credit is due. Rifle is a good team, and they did everything they had to do to win.”
The Mustangs did their best to come back, though.
Fort Morgan got the ball back to start the second half and was able to move the ball well thanks to fullback Toby McBride, who churned out 40 of his team-high 64 rushing yards in the second half. Twenty of those came on Fort Morgan’s first our plays of the third quarter, but Rifle’s defense stalled the drive to force a punt.
That stop set up Rifle on its own 35, and Vance rumbled into the end zone from 33 yards out just three plays later to put the Bears on top 28-7 with 7:39 left in the third following Eduardo Sandoval’s point-after kick.
With its running game being grounded to a halt while facing a three-touchdown deficit, Fort Morgan’s offense became a one-dimensional passing attack for the remainder of the game. It worked to some degree, as the Mustangs drove to the Bears’ 36 with that approach at the end of the third quarter.
But with his first throw of the fourth quarter, Fort Morgan quarterback Joey Schneider was intercepted by Rifle’s Ty Leyba. It was one of two for the Bears during the game — Bosshardt had the other one.
And from there, the Bears proceeded to run out the clock until Stutsman’s 2-yard plunge with 1:27 remaining capped the scoring.
“When I was a little kid, I got to watch that team in 2004,” Stutsman, the Bears’ senior quarterback, said in reference to the school’s last football state championship.
“You want to be like those kids when you watch them, and everyone here has worked so hard to have that opportunity. I’m just so thankful to be a part of this program.”
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