Bears sneak past Palisade in OT
GRAND JUNCTION – Once Thad Porter found a crack in Palisade’s defense, all it took for the Rifle tight end to be successful was to be thrown the football.
After catching a touchdown pass in the first half, the Bear senior got his number called in overtime.
And Porter responded by pulling down Jason Enewold’s seven-yard toss in the end zone for a 34-31 come-from-behind win over the upset-minded Bulldogs to remain undefeated.
“I was wide open,” Porter said of the pass play to the left flat that won the game and raised Rifle’s record to 5-0 and 1-0 against the Class 3A Western Slope Conference.
“It’s pretty neat knowing that I’d either have to be the hero or the play-breaker,” he continued. “I’m glad I had the opportunity.”
Porter was the man of many opportunities on Friday night.
Earlier, Porter’s second quarter TD pulled the Bears to 14-14 tie at halftime.
And Porter’s third reception, a 12-yard catch in the fourth, gave Rifle a drive-sustaining first down which lead to the Bears’ game-tying score with 1:45 left in regulation.
On a night where Rifle’s highly touted rushing game was limited, the Bear air corps filled the void.
Enewold, who went 9-for-15 for 109 yards, concluded an eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard TD to Aaron Jewell for Rifle’s first score. Down 14-7 after Palisade regained the lead on quarterback Dustin Harris’s 1-yard keeper, Enewold found Porter for his first touchdown with 1:15 remaining for the tie.
Then Troy Weiss exploded.
Held to a meager 63 yards rushing to that point, Weiss, whose also Rifle’s primary kickoff returner, returned Palisade’s second-half opening kickoff 88 yards for the Bears’ first lead of the evening.
Ahead 20-14 after Kyle Sanderson’s missed extra point, the Bears’ newly-gained advantage was gone after the next series.
Palisade fullback Travis Bounds, who rushed for a game-high 194 yards in 23 carries, put the Bulldogs back on top 4:30 later. His one-yard touchdown run capped an 11-play drive, where Palisade jumped back ahead by one point after Jesse Widegren’s PAT.
In the fourth period, Bounds raised the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-26 with 28-yard TD with 7:40 left.
Enewold’s one-yard run with in the game’s final two minutes left teh Bears down by two points, due to Sanderson’s missed kick.
That forced coach Darrel Gorham to go for the two-point conversion.
Weiss, running out of power I formation, tied the game at 28-28.
“We went with our strong formation,” Enewold said of the shift. “Give Weiss two lead blockers and see what he could do with the ball. He found some holes and got us in.”
But Palisade, despite a lack of time, was in a position to win the game.
A horde of bad kickoffs, combined with a Rifle offside penalty, put Palisade on the Bear 13 with seconds remaining. Bounds was tackled for a six-yard loss and Harris, after spiking the ball to kill the clock, could only get back to the original line of scrimmage.
Rifle won the toss to start overtime and elected to start on defense. It turned out to be a good call.
In overtime, teams start at the opponents 10-yard line, then alternate possession until one team takes the lead.
The Bears forced two incomplete passes after a one-yard gain. Palisade coach Todd Casebeir opted for a 25-yard field goal attempt by Jesse Widegren, which the freshman promptly nailed through the goal posts.
Rifle appeared to be in good shape after Weiss’ four-yard run to start its series, but, an illegal procedure penalty pushed the ball back to the 11.
Mike Birdsley’s reverse gained four and left Rifle at the seven, setting up Porter’s game-winner.
“That pass had been open all game,” Enewold explained. “I barely got (the pass) off and Thad made a great catch.”
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