Bears’ O-line giving backs some room
Post Independent Staff
RIFLE ” Of all the rebuilding jobs facing Rifle going into the 2005 football season, revamping the Bears offensive line appeared to be the hardest.
There was just one returning starter from the ’04 group.
Offensive-line newcomers Keith Fraser, Kyle Laidlaw, Steve Wilson, Josh Gustad and veteran Mitch Kosht accepted the challenge. And the group has gotten better every week, with support from Tight End Cody Boe.
Gustad and Fraser had particularly tough tasks ahead of them.
“Both are converted running backs,” Kosht said. “(Head) coach (Damon Wells) asked them to move down. They have, and now they just get after it.”
Still, it took a few games for the newly-constructed line to get comfortable with their roles.
“At the beginning of the season nobody knew what they were doing too well,” said senior Josh Gustad.
“Nothing was easy. I wasn’t used to pushing a kid who weighed 20-to-40 pounds heavier than me every play. Now we’re putting it together and doing better.”
Rushing statistics point out how well the new line has jelled.
In playoffs wins over previously No. 1-ranked Northridge, then No. 8 Elizabeth, Rifle backs ran for 650 yards and seven touchdowns.
Bryce Enewold has seen first-hand how the line has progressed. In last week’s 35-14 win over Elizabeth, the Bears running back/wide receiver scored all four of his touchdowns on the ground.
“Our blocking was great and the offensive line gave us a good push,” he said.
Kosht said it’s the linemen’s commitment to hard work, along with Well’s schemes that have given the group success.
“Coach Wells sets it up nicely for us with his game plans and schemes,” he said. “(Opposing) teams are confused and don’t have an answer for a lot of the stuff that we do. They don’t even understand the question.”
But that doesn’t mean they take Steamboat Springs, today’s Class 3A semifinal opponent lightly.
“They are a legitimate semifinalist and are a good team,” Gustad said.
“They’re very good and their running back (Jay Hanley) is a stud. So we have a lot of work to do, but I feel confident that we’ll be prepared.”
Hanley ran for 163 yards and both of Steamboat’s touchdowns in last week’s 14-6 victory against Eagle Valley that advanced the Sailors to today’s rematch with Rifle.
In a conference game in Steamboat on Oct. 16, Hanley rushed for 155 yards on 30 carries. Rifle lost that game 14-12. Gustad said one of the reasons for the defeat was that it was just the third game the line had played together as a unit.
“Then we were still confused about what we were doing. The line was just getting stalemates,” he said. “Now, were starting to do more pushing than letting them do the pushing on us. We’re starting to get after it now.”
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