Bears pound out 14-7 win over Palisade on the ground
RIFLE – It’s not size, ability or experience that separates Rifle from its opponents on the football field. It’s toughness, above all, that’s led the Bears to a 5-0 unbeaten conference record, and first place in the WSC as a bonus.That’s not to say Palisade, who lost 14-7 to Rifle Friday, is weak. The Bulldogs, who fell to 2-3 in conference play, were solid and in contention until the final play of the fourth quarter.”I could not have more respect for (Palisade head coach) John Arledge and the job he does. He gets his kids to play,” said Rifle coach Damon Wells of his colleague.The same can be said of Wells and his coaching staff.Every time the game got down to crunch time, Rifle found a way to get the job done. Meanwhile, in part due to the Bears’ bruising defense, Palisade was forced into panicking.
A 55-yard tackle-busting romp by Colby McFarlin broke a 7-all tie with 1 minute, 56 seconds left.”What a great run that was,” Wells said. “I thought for sure he was going to get caught because of the angle, and he didn’t go down.”Still, there was plenty of time for the Bulldogs, who had responded with a score after Rifle took the lead on Tyler Thompson’s three-yard touchdown in the third quarter, to force a second tie.Palisade raised a scare, maneuvering down to the Bears’ 21 on back-to-back Billy Logsdon passes of 16 and 15 yards. But, when it came to making the big play. Rifle’s defense came up huge.A solo blitz by Thompson forced Logsdon into a loss of 10 yards, and he was flagged for an illegal pass when he released the ball with no Bulldog receiver in sight.The events forced Palisade back to midfield.
With seconds remaining, a retreating Logsdon fumbled. Rifle lineman Kyle Laidlaw was waiting and the victory was sealed when he got up after recovering the loose football.Although the second half belonged to Rifle, the Bears’ play during the first half was not very crisp.Rifle totaled a mere 25 yards of total offense. Palisade wasn’t tearing up the field, either. But they managed to get down to the Bears’ 1-yard line until a fumble and a Rifle fourth-down stand a couple of plays later maintained the scoreless tie.After intermission, the Bears took care of business and ran the ball down Palisade’s throat in the opening drive of the third quarter.Forsaking passing, which netted them negative yardage, Tyler Thompson rushed for 74 of Rifle’s 75 yards in a five-minute plus, 11-play drive that produced the first score of the game.
“That’s what we do,” Wells said. “That’s kind of our personality. And we like to lean up against what we do best – that’s run the football.”After surviving a takeway on Bear defensive back Nick Alderson’s pass interception, Palisade used its rushing game to pound down the field for tying score.Wideout Jesse Kirstatter’s 10-yard touchdown on a reverse around left end capped a 10-play, 77-yard drive to knot the game at 7-all when kicker Kevin Collette split the uprights.Then in what was shaping up as a slugfest, Rifle stubbed their toe. A 14-play march from the Bears’ 19 down to Palisade’s 21 stalled when quarterback Derek Fruetel missed connecting with tight end Cody Boe on a fourth-down pass.Palisade gained its way to their 40 when Rifle’s defense stiffened, forcing a fourth down punt which led to McFarlin’s touchdown.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.