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Expectations high for Rifle Bears in 2002 campaign

G. Sean Kelly

The Rifle Bears are striving for perfection.

And while Rifle got off to an early start this season with an impressive 34-8 win over Grand County, Utah, in Moab last weekend, 12th-year head coach Darrel Gorham knows there is still some work to be done before the goal of perfection can be achieved.

“The expectations are so high we just want everything to be perfect,” Gorham said. “Our expectation isn’t just to win the league. … Even though we won 34-8 kids understand there are still a lot of areas to improve on.”

Part of the reason Gorham is so keyed on “perfection” this season is the disappointing exit from last year’s playoffs. The Bears rolled through the 3A Western Slope Conference schedule undefeated (7-0, 8-3 overall) during the regular season, but fell in the first round of the playoffs.

The favored Bears fell to Valley 44-28 in Rifle in the opening round of the playoffs last season, something Gorham wants to make sure doesn’t happen again.

“The kids have been talking about that, and one of the goals this year is not to take anybody lightly,” Gorham said.

Senior Jason Enewold, who played receiver last year, will take over quarterback duties this season, and, judging from the contest in Moab, Utah, is well-suite for the position. Enewold finished with 70 yards and a touchdown on seven carries and also completed 7-of-12 passes for 80 yards and no interceptions.

“He’s going to be a stud,” Gorham said of his new quarterback. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”

And Enewold looks to have plenty of offensive help. Junior Troy Weiss moves from slotback to tailback this year and rumbled for 170 yards and four touchdowns against Grand County – which are the type of rushing numbers Gorham likes to see.

“I’ve always been a running, physical type of coach,” Gorham said. “It makes the kids physical and carries over to the defensive side. Just playing physical helps us out as a program.”

Rifle was the victim of good and bad luck in its opener last. Starting slot-back Mike Birdsley went down with an ankle injury early, but J.R. Childress stepped in and had seven catches for 70 yards.

“J.R. was a total surprise to us,” Gorham said. “He jumped right in there and played one heck of a game.”

Birdsley may miss the season-opener, and after his return the Bears should boast plenty of depth at the position.

Seniors Tony Allen, Ryan Gilbert and Anthony Alfini give the Bears an impressive offensive front. All three earned post-season accolades last year on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

“Those kids wouldn’t be able to run the ball as well if those hogs up front didn’t do a good job,” Gorham said.

Defensively, Gilbert and Allen anchor the line, while Alfini and Thad Porter play linebacker, which is backed up by a deep unit in the secondary.

Against Grand County the Bears defense held the Moab squad to just over 100 total yards.

Rifle hosts Harrison Friday at 7 p.m. at Bears Stadium.


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