‘Dogs edge Rifle in shootout | PostIndependent.com

‘Dogs edge Rifle in shootout

Jim Noelker photo Palisade fullback Jason Popick is buried by most of Rifle's defence during Thursday night match up at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction.

GRAND JUNCTION – After last week’s upset loss to Glenwood Springs, Rifle’s road to the Class 3A football playoffs got tougher. Now, thanks to a extraordinary last-minute touchdown play by No. 1-ranked Palisade, the rest of the football season has become a matter of survival for the Bears.”We’re one play away from being a good football team,” said Rifle coach Darrel Gorham. “Right now, we’re very average.” Still, who would think that the key play in the Bulldogs’ 35-31 comeback win would come from Jake Watt in crunch time? The same sophomore quarterback who had just 21 passing yards in the first half.

But it was Watt, on fourth down, who made the game’s biggest play when he hit Kyle Britton with a 37-yard swing pass out of the backfield with 30 seconds left for the winning score.Gorham, who had seen his team regain the lead with 2:49 left, was unhappy with the turn of events.”Until we understand every play in a counts, then maybe we’ll start winning some games,” he said. “It’s just like the Glenwood game. None of that stuff should have ever happened.”Before Palisade’s last-minute drive, it looked like the Bears (3-2 Western Slope, 4-2 overall) were going to pull themselves back into the upper tier of the Western Slope Conference.Kyle Sanderson’s 9-yard TD pass to Colter Hedberg gave Rifle its second lead of the fourth quarter. Earlier in the period, Sanderson kicked a 24-yard field goal to break a 21-all tie.

And, after Rifle had appeared to have found the right defensive scheme to shut down the Bulldogs’ potent running attack, all the Bears had to do was keep a cool head and let the clock run out.Britton, who had two 1-yard touchdown runs earlier, wouldn’t let that happen.”We knew that we had to come up for it, and we had to go get it,” Britton said of the Bulldogs winning drive.After taking the lead, Britton sealed the deal by intercepting Sanderson’s last-ditch pass in the waning seconds to preserve the win.

The lead swayed between the two teams all night.Tyler Gose put the Bears up on a 92-yard kickoff return to start the game.Palisade grabbed a 13-7 advantage at halftime. Then it was Rifle’s turn to pull away.Rocky Rauman’s 29 and 47-yard TD runs gave the Bears their biggest margin at 21-13 with 5:34 to go in the third until Britton’s second score and Watt’s two-point conversion pass knotted the game back at 21-21 before the fourth-quarter fireworks began.

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