Class 3A football semis: Lots of tradition for Bears, Mustangs |

Class 3A football semis: Lots of tradition for Bears, Mustangs

Jon Mitchell



2012: Rifle 56, Pueblo East 6

2005: Rifle 14, Steamboat Springs 7

2004: Rifle 23, Niwot 20

1974: Salida 28, Rifle 12

1973: Rifle 19, Monte Vista 0

1969: Rocky Ford 31, Rifle 18

1961: Rifle 7, Paonia 0

1955: Lamar 24, Rifle 0

1952: Rifle 25, Montezuma Cortez 14

1949: Alamosa 19, Rifle 14

Fort Morgan

2008: Fort Morgan 42, D’Evelyn 24

2001: Fort Morgan 35, Englewood 21

2000: Canon City 28, Fort Morgan 7

1999: Fort Morgan 37, Alamosa 13

1998: Faith Christian 29, Fort Morgan 28

1992: Fort Morgan 48, Jefferson 22

1952: Fort Morgan 19, Holyoke 12

1946: Boulder 34, Fort Morgan 6

1941: Fort Collins 27, Fort Morgan 6

1936: Loveland 14, Fort Morgan 7

1928: Fort Collins 7, Fort Morgan 0

1923: Fort Collins 28, Fort Morgan 7

Source: Kevin Schaeffer,

RIFLE — The last time that Rifle High School’s football team played in the Colorado state playoffs against Fort Morgan was …

“Sixty-two years ago,” eighth-year Fort Morgan coach Harrison Chisum said. “We had some older guys who came in and talked to our guys about when they played at Rifle for the state championship back in 1952 when they were the Fort Morgan Maroons.

“They had to get on a train to go to Rifle,” Chisum continued with a laugh. “And they beat Rifle. It’s just a really cool thing to hear things like that.”

For sure, Fort Morgan triumphed over Rifle 21-14 in that Colorado Class A state championship game in what was the first state title game for both schools. There’s been a lot of success for both teams since that game took place more than half-a-century ago, including eight semifinal-round trips for Rifle and six for Fort Morgan, which is now nicknamed the Mustangs.

And it’s safe to say that both teams would like to add on to that long history of success when the sixth-seeded Bears (11-1) host the 10th-seeded Mustangs (10-2) in this year’s 3A semifinals, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. today. It’s just another thing both communities share to go with the long football tradition of each school.

“That’s just awesome,” Rifle High football coach Damon Wells said. “The beauty of that is that you have two programs with a lot of tradition playing each other. And as a program, you dream about bringing big events like this to your town. It’s a big deal.”

It’s obviously a big deal for Rifle, which is one of just two high school football teams in Western Colorado still playing (Paonia hosts Buena Vista in the Class 1A title game today). But what makes it a bigger deal for both schools is how much tradition both schools have compared to the other semifinal in Class 3A between Discovery Canyon and Pueblo East in Colorado Springs.

That other semifinal matchup — which will be played today at District 20 Stadium in Colorado Springs — features two teams who have one state semifinal appearance between them. That belongs to Pueblo East, which lost to Rifle, 56-6, in the 2012 semifinals at Dutch Clark Stadium. Discovery Canyon, on the other hand, has only been playing football since 2008 when the school opened just east of Black Forest north of Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, Rifle is making its 11th semifinal appearance, which dates back to the Bears’ first appearance that resulted in a 19-14 loss to Alamosa in 1949. Fort Morgan is in the state semis for the 13th time, with the “Maroons’” first appearance resulting in a 28-7 loss to Fort Collins in 1923.

Both programs take advantage of that history, too. Chisum and Wells each look for former players and coaches to speak to their current teams on subjects like school pride and, in this case for Fort Morgan, games long past.

“We love the tradition we have here,” Chisum said. “We have a lot of guys who have played in the program who are proud of what they’ve done.”

Ironically, Rifle has tied tradition into modern-day technology. The team’s Website,, is currently running a six-part series to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Rifle’s last state title, which came in 2004.

For the record, Rifle is 6-5 all time in semifinal games. Fort Morgan, which is 5-8 in semifinal games, won its last state title in 1999.

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