Dashing through the snow: Rifle rumbles into Class 3A football semifinals
Rifle 15, Roosevelt 0
Rifle 0 0 0 15 — 15
Roosevelt 0 0 0 0 — 0
Rifle — Ty Leyba 13 run (Brock Clark run), 9:52.
Rifle — Clark 18 run (Eduardo Sandoval kick), 3:02.
First downs 21 6
Rushes-yards 60-311 26-125
Passing yards 0 10
Total yards 311 135
Comp-Att-Int 0-6-1 1-3-1
Punts-Avg 1-32 3-37.7
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 2-10 3-25
RUSHING — Rifle, Blaine Vance 24-150, Clark 23-133, Layton Stutsman 6-9, Leyba 4-21, Brooks Pressler 1-4, Team 2-(minus-6). Roosevelt, Christian Majszak 3-75, Carlos Ortega 6-19, Cameron Hurtado 14-35, Devin Schmidt 1-3, Jaryk Szymanski 2-2, Austin Smith 1-8, Dalton Hulbert 2-(minus-19), Ray Garcia 1-1, Elijah Derrera 1-1.
Passing — Rifle, Stutsman 0-6-0-1. Roosevelt, Hurtado 1-3-10-1.
Receiving — Roosevelt, Hulbert 1-10.
JOHNSTOWN — Roosevelt High School’s football team made a habit of plowing over opponents all season. On Saturday, the Rifle Bears not only plowed through the snow, but the Roughriders, on their way to the Class 3A semifinals.
Rifle sophomore running back Blaine Vance rushed for 150 yards on 24 carries, and Brock Clark’s fourth-quarter touchdown run sealed the Bears’ 15-0 victory over Roosevelt in the Class 3A quarterfinals at a snow-covered Peterson Field.
“I’d never played in a snow game before,” said Clark, who finished the game with 133 rushing yards on 23 carries. “Man. That was a lot of fun.”
It wound up being a whole lot of fun for the sixth-seeded Bears (11-1), whose ability to control the game at the line of scrimmage — both on offense and defense — proved the difference. Rifle finished the game with 311 yards of total offense — all of it on the ground — and ran nearly three times as many plays as the Roughriders.
Plus, the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage on defense against a Roosevelt offensive line that, all the way across, weighed more and 1,000 pounds. But instead of using the brute strength that the Roughriders (10-2) have relied on all season, the Bears went a different route.
“They were just beating our blocks, and their linebackers were able to get in our backfield,” Roosevelt coach Nolan Eastin said. “Our linemen are big, but they just could not get upfield on them. They’re very quick, and they were able to move around us.”
Roosevelt was limited to just 135 yards of total offense, with 125 coming on the ground. The Roughriders, who had averaged more than 300 rushing yards per game during the season, fell to Rifle in the postseason for the third consecutive time and the third time in the past four years.
With the victory, the Bears moved into the 3A semifinals against 10th-seeded Fort Morgan (10-2), a 13-7 winner over second-seeded Evergreen in another Saturday quarterfinal. The game will be played at Bears Stadium in Rifle, with the winner moving into the 3A state title game against either Pueblo East or Discovery Canyon on Nov. 29.
“We can’t wait for the next round,” Vance said.
The Bears had to wait to get on the scoreboard, not taking the lead for good until the fourth quarter. Then again, the Bears — and the Roughriders — had their chances to go up much earlier.
Rifle drove the field on its first possession, moving the ball to Roosevelt’s 6 before Roughriders senior defensive lineman Christian Sanchez recovered a Brock Clark fumble. Four plays later, Roosevelt junior running back Christian Majszak popped off a 66-yard run that set the Riders up on Rifle’s 15.
Four plays after that, however, Rifle senior Cody Rice recovered a Roosevelt fumble on the Bears’ 3, ending the threat.
Rifle’s defense created another opportunity later in the half when senior lineman Alex Gould blocked — and recovered — a Dalton Hulbert punt on Roosevelt’s 20 with 19 seconds left before halftime. Rifle was able to move the ball to Roosevelt’s 8, but Eduardo Sandoval’s 28-yard field goal attempt fell short as the clock ran out.
“You’d think we’d come out pumped up after that,” Eastin said.
And the Roughriders did to a point, with Orlando Rivera intercepting a Layton Stutsman pass in the end zone halfway through the third quarter. Roosevelt’s ensuing drive, however, stalled at their own 49, and Rifle took over on its own 26 after Hulbert’s 43-yard punt.
The Bears took it from there, with Vance, Clark and Brooks Pressler combining to run the ball to the Riders’ 13 before 5-foot-3 Rifle running back Ty Leyba scooted his way into the end zone at the 9 minute, 52-second mark of the fourth, giving Rifle an 8-0 lead after Clark’s conversion run. Rifle’s defense forced a three-and-out possession the next time Roosevelt had the ball, and Clark made it a two-score game with his 18-yard jaunt with 3:02 remaining.
Just like they did when they were trailing Rifle in the 2012 quarterfinals, Roosevelt went to the air in an attempt to catch up. The drive ended quickly, though, as Rice picked off Cameron Hurtado’s pass with 2:46 remaining to essentially seal it.
“It’s kind of like a boxing match, and all of those [early chances] were just body shots,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “We were eventually able to lay the knockout blow, but hat’s of to Roosevelt. They made it tough on us.”
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.