Bears, Demons set for rivalry meeting
The disdain for each other goes back quite a while.
Rifle-Glenwood Springs in a match-up on the gridiron that both teams have had circled on the schedule year after year.
Usually, this game has more at stake than just a local rivalry. More often than not, this game has playoff implications.
This year it has playoff implications, but for just one team.
The Bears are that team with playoff implications on the line as they continue their redemption quest to reach Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, the site of the state championship game every year.
Sitting at 7-1 (4-1 3A Western Slope League), the Bears are on the cusp of heading back to the state playoffs. Currently ranked No. 4 in the state ahead of the lone team they lost to in the Delta Panthers (35-21 back on Oct. 2), the Panthers are clicking on all cylinders heading into the longtime rivalry against the Demons.
While the Bears roll on, the Demons are seeming stuck at the starting line spinning their wheels due to lingering injury issues and a relatively young team.
At 1-7 (1-4 WSL), the Demons are coming off of their first win of the season — a 27-13 triumph over the Summit Tigers.
Despite the down year and a below-standard record, the Demons are still the same program that the Bears have faced over the last eight years, according to Rifle head coach Damon Wells.
“To be brutally honest, that’s the same Glenwood football team to me,” Wells said. “They’ve got great coaching, very talented kids and a good system. You aren’t as successful as Glenwood has been year after year without great coaching and talented players.
“I just think the world of their staff.”
While the Demons might be the same team that has been good in the recent past, their record indicates otherwise, which (again) has to do with a lot of injuries to key players and the decrease in number of kids coming out for the team.
However, there’s been no signs of quitting from any of the Demons players, which paid off with that win on the road against Summit thanks to seniors Matt Osier and Matt Townsley, as well as juniors Jake Townsley and Easton Gaddis.
Gaddis, who has really come on strong in the last few weeks, has emerged as the top offensive threat for the Demons. The junior running back originally started the season as a wide receiver, but injuries forced him into the backfield, where he’s become a steady presence for the Glenwood offense.
With Gaddis drawing the opponents’ attention on the road last week, Osier was able to have a productive game on the ground, scoring two touchdowns in the win, including a 60-yard scamper on the Demons’ first play from scrimmage.
Now that the Demons have some stability in the backfield it makes it that much more difficult for the Bears to try and shut down the Glenwood weapons — if at all.
“You know, I don’t think you can [completely shut them down],” Wells said. “For as talented as they are and as well-coached as they are, they’re going to gain yards. You have to understand that and try to minimize that to the greatest extent possible, but a talented kid is a talented kid, you know? They’re going to perform on Friday nights.
“We’ve watched them play in person and on film. We know that we’re not going to be able to take away everything that they do, and we know that they’re going to give us some fits.”
As the Bears prepare for Gaddis and Osier on the ground, the Demons have to prepare for the trio of running backs that the Bears are able to ride up and down the field with great success game after game.
If it’s not senior running back Ty Leyba picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground for Rifle, it’s usually Tyler Bosshardt or Blaine Vance that does the heavy lifting. For the Demons to stay in this game, they’ll have to be schematically sound and show great discipline within their assignments against a Rifle offense that likes to use a lot of misdirections and quick traps in the running game.
“The thing is, they do run the ball extremely well,” Demons head coach Rocky Whitworth said. “It’s not like we’re going to try and limit just one running back. They’re all going to get their yards because that’s how good their offense is, but we just have to try and limit big plays.”
While the main strength for the Bears offense is the powerful, productive rushing attack, Whitworth was quick to point out the strong passing game that the Bears have with quarterback Ethan Strouse and receiver Jacob Boone.
“The untold story with Rifle is that they’re very effective throwing the ball,” Whitworth said. “They can beat you with the running game, but then they can create big plays with the passing game.”
It has been a trying year for the Demons outside of the wins and losses column due to players being unavailable for various reasons, according to Whitworth, but the preparation and focus level has been very good for Glenwood coming off of a big win on the road, and now preparing for a fierce rivalry game with the Bears on the road.
“It’s been a good week of practice for sure,” Whitworth said. “Rifle is one of the best — if not the best — team we’ll see all season. They’re competing for a league championship.”
While one team is trending in the right direction and the other is trying to get back to the level they once were, one thing is certain in this rivalry game: Throw out the records because they won’t matter once that football is kicked off.
Other WSL action
In other local Friday night action, the Coal Ridge Titans (3-5, 1-3) will travel to Battle Mountain to take on the 3-4 (2-2) Huskies. The Titans were shut out in Week 8 by the Roaring Fork Rams. Speaking of the Rams (4-4, 2-2), they will hit the road to take on the Moffat County Bulldogs (6-2, 4-0) in a nonleague match-up.
The Grand Valley Cardinals (0-8, 0-4) will have the night off before traveling to Leadville on Saturday to take on the Lake County Panthers (0-8, 0-4) with kickoff set for 1 p.m.
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