Bears hold on to squeak by with a win |

Bears hold on to squeak by with a win

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE ” They ran the ball ” and held onto it ” when it mattered most.

After fumbling the ball seven times, five resulting in loss of possession, Rifle kept a firm grip on the football and ground out the clock with the ground game and preserved a 20-13 season-opening win over Valley on Friday.

In a clock-icing final drive, Rifle runners busted out three runs of 10 yards or more. That, after fumbling the ball away twice in the fourth quarter alone, once inside the Valley 5-yard line with 8 minutes, 45 seconds remaining.

“Coach was telling us we better hold onto the ball,” Bears running back Tyler Chapman said. “There was lots of pressure.”

And Chapman and the Bears (1-0) did just that after taking possession with 3:37 remaining after the defense forced a punt.

The head coach Chapman spoke of ” Damon Wells ” left the field relieved after dodging a major bullet.

“You’re always happy to win,” the third-year head coach said, “but we’re definitely not happy with our execution, to be quite honest. Rifle High School considers itself fortunate to fumble the ball (seven) times and walk away with the win.”

Though Wells and his Rifle players have plenty to work on, bright spots were there for the unearthing ” beyond, of course, the end result.

The Bears spread the rushing wealth among their legion of backs and Chapman, a senior, fronted the pack with 90 yards on 15 carries, including a 10-yard tote to pick up a first down and keep the clock running with less than 3 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Starting quarterback Hazen Moss, seeing his first game action since 2005 after back-to-back seasons lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, finished up with 63 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 carries. He racked up 57 yards in the air on 5-of-7 passing.

Daniel Maldonado finished with 22 yards and a 3-yard TD run, adding a big 17-yard scamper to pick up a late first down for good measure.

Despite its troubles, the Rifle offense did manage 263 yards of offense ” 206 of that on the ground.

The defense held the Vikings (0-1) to 128 total yards and forced two fumbles. One of those turnovers proved huge, with Valley fumbling the ball away on a punt return early in the third quarter. Derek Kassak pounced on the loose ball and Rifle proceeded to march 35 yards on four plays for what would prove to be the winning TD.

Wells, who lost 17 seniors to graduation last year, vowed to work out his team’s kinks in practice this week.

“We did have a couple of blown assignments and the communication wasn’t as good as it will be,” he said. “I promise we’ll come out and work on that. I hope the old adage holds true that the most improvement comes between the first and second game.”

That second game will come next Friday with a trip to Delta.

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