Demons overcome fourth-quarter deficit to best Bears, 22-15
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.
With the ball on Glenwood Springs’ 30-yard line, a toss to a receiver in double coverage led to a pass interference call. This set up Bears junior Toto Fletchall for a clutch 15-yard touchdown run through heavy traffic up the middle.
But left with a huge question of whether to tie with a 1-point kick or go with the more gutsy 2-point attempt, Casebier went with his gut. A handoff to Embrey Marantino led to a successful 2-point conversion. In response, Rifle’s bench and crowd went wild in the brisk cold Friday night at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood.
But the Demons remained resilient. After Rifle opted for an on-side kick, the Demons would recover near their own 46-yard line and make the Bears pay for it. They’d eventually march downfield and score thanks to a desperate, fourth-down touchdown pass to Blake Nieslanik.
“The on-side kick, I called that and we didn’t get it and that’s on me,” Casebier said. “But we played for the win.”
And with a successful 2-point conversion also thanks to Nieslanik, the Demons would hold on to win, 22-15. It’d mark the first time since 2010 they’ve beaten their 3A rival in Rifle.
“I’m proud of how we battled,” Casbier said. “Give Glenwood credit for coming back in the fourth quarter. We took a couple chances. A couple of them worked and a couple of them didn’t.”
Every moment leading up to this, however, was well-earned for both teams. Whether it was the packed house or the freezing drizzle, it took some time for offenses to adjust.
“They did a hell of a job,” Demons head coach Patrick Engle said. “And my hat’s off to their coaches and their kids. But, to be honest, our locker room is a veteran-led locker room. I mean, we have seniors, and those seniors, they don’t want to lose.”
Glenwood, coming off a huge 21-14 win against a formidable Basalt team last week, has almost 20 seniors to Rifle’s six.
“We knew that this was going to be another game very similar to last week,” Engle said. “This is Glenwood, Rifle. This is the rival game. To be honest with ya, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry over the last 11 years and, hopefully, we start to represent in the rivalry now.”
After both teams remained stagnant on offense, Glenwood Springs eventually drew first blood at 2:53 in the first quarter. From his own 46-yard line, Nieslanik would put on the jets and cruise past the Bears’ secondary for the first touchdown of the night.
Following a good point-after attempt, the Demons were up 7-0.
It wasn’t until 7:33 in the second quarter that the Bears answered back. Following a hard-fought drive that lasted nearly 6 minutes, a left-side pitch deep in the red zone led the Bears to their first touchdown of the night.
With a successful point after, the game was tied 7-7.
Later in the second quarter, the Demons came blazing back. They’d march downfield thanks to a couple of major pass completions to Blake Nieslanik and Wheatly Nieslanik. On Rifle’s 12-yard line, Glenwood quarterback Joaquin Sandoval connected with Blake Nieslanik for the score. Following a successful point-after attempt, the Demons held a 14-7 lead.
After taking the kick to start the second half, Rifle would march downfield and make it all the way to the Demons’ red zone. Bears senior Kaden Wolf, however, fumbled near Glenwood’s goal line and the Demons recovered.
Following Rifle’s final touchdown, however, time simply ran out for them.
With the win, Glenwood now sports an undefeated 5-0 record. They sit in first place in the 3A West and head to Salida to take on the 0-4 Spartans on April 23 (time unavailable at deadline).
“It’s awful hard to quantify 11 years of nailbiting games,” Engle said. “Honestly, (Rifle’s) had our number for the past decade, and our kids have worked really, really hard. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Rifle, meanwhile, now has a 3-2 overall record and sit in 3rd place in 3A. They host Steamboat Springs (1-3) at 7 p.m. on April 23.
“We responded when we needed to, but I don’t think that the kids would tell you that we played our best game today,” Engle said. “I don’t like our pad level; our pad level is way too high. That needs to get better.”
Engle added: “Next week’s a workweek. We don’t have the luxury of not going out and working hard next week.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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