Class 3A football notebook: Same teams, different looks
AT A GLANCE
Who: Rifle at Pueblo East, Class 3A football state championship game
Where: Dutch Clark Stadium, Pueblo
When: 1 p.m. Saturday.
Radio: KNAM (1490-AM), and KMTS (99.1 and 99.5-FM).
TV: The game will be broadcast on the big screen at the Ute Events Center in Rifle
Cost: $9 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens.
It’s safe to say that both the Rifle and Pueblo East high school football teams are a lot different than the last time the teams met.
That last time was in 2012, when the then-unbeaten Bears came to Dutch Clark Stadium to play the upstart Eagles in the Class 3A semifinals. It wound up being a one-sided affair, with Rifle rolling to a 56-6 win and kickstarting the 40-point, running-clock mercy rule right after halftime.
“We were a really young team then,” said eighth-year Pueblo East coach David Ramirez, whose team had 24 underclassmen on a roster that brought the school its first semifinal berth in school history. “If I remember right, that game ended up being the Ryan Moeller show.”
No doubt, Moeller, a freshman safety at Colorado who got his first start in a CU uniform against Oregon this past weekend, did have a great game. Moeller, who was a senior running back for the Bears at that time, amassing 205 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries. The Bears were also kickstarted by then-junior Kellin Leigh, whose 74-yard TD run on Rifle’s first play from scrimmage gave the Bears a lead they’d never relinquish.
Meanwhile, many of the underclassmen who were on that semifinal team are still around and have brought the program continued success. Last season, East raised some eyebrows when they whipped top-seeded Discovery Canyon 47-13 in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. This season, the Eagles had to beat the Thunder — who again was the top seed — in this past weekend’s semifinals to reach the state title game.
“I’d like to think that we’ve grown quite a bit as a team since the last time we played them,” Ramirez said.
Speaking of Ryan Moeller, the 2013 Rifle High grad didn’t just get his first start at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, but he excelled in his first start.
Moeller, although the Buffaloes remained winless in the Pacific-12 Conference following their 44-10 loss to third-ranked Oregon, was an impact player for CU. He finished with a game-high 14 tackles — including one tackle-for-loss — to go with a pass breakup. Thirteen of the 14 tackles Moeller made were unassisted.
Moeller was the Class 3A Player of the Year for the Bears in 2012, when he rushed for 3,002 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also finished with 57 tackles and eight interceptions on defense in helping Rifle reel off 13 consecutive wins on their way to the 2012 state title game in Aurora.
Rifle High ties in Pueblo
Even though Rifle High School will be playing at Dutch Clark on Saturday for the 3A state championship, one former Rifle coach won’t be able to make it.
Darrel Gorham, who was the head coach at Rifle High the year that the Bears won the state title in 2004, is currently serving as the tight ends coach for the football team at Colorado State University-Pueblo . The Thunderwolves (10-1), who finished the regular season ranked eighth in the Division II national poll, are hosting Angelo State (Texas) in the second round of the Division II playoffs at noon Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will host Rifle at 1 p.m. Saturday at Dutch Clark, meaning the football-mad town of Pueblo will be split between venues.
Pueblo East officials tried to change the game time when finalists were determined on Nov. 22, but the Colorado High School Activities Association insisted the stat time for Saturday’s game remain the same.
“Man, that’s too bad,” Ramirez said. “I mean, it’s not every day that a state championship game comes to Pueblo.”
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