From a ghost of a chance to a Gose of a chance
RIFLE ” Tyler Gose has come a long way as the quarterback of the Rifle Bears.
Early in the season, the senior was as smooth as a hiccup.
He was still learning the position.
For many who saw his early struggles, a trip to the semifinals was more far-fetched than winning the lottery.
Not even Tyler Gose believed.
“No sir, I didn’t,” Gose said with a winning grin after the Bears’ 35-14 victory over Elizabeth.
On Saturday, Gose’s quarterback development took another step. But with the quarterback position, not everything came easy.
After connecting on his first three passes and leading the Bears to an early score, Gose then misfired on his next three, with one interception.
The life of a quarterback has more ups and downs than an airline pilot. But Gose has learned that it’s his job to stay as cool as a mountain stream.
Even after the interception and a perfectly thrown pass that slipped through his receiver’s hands, Gose maintained his focus. That has been part of his growth.
“I have to totally forget about those things,” Gose said. “I’ve got to learn from it, but then I have to totally forget about it.”
Gose never took a snap at quarterback last year, so when he stepped under center for the first game of the season, disaster was waiting.
Seven turnovers ” that’s right, the Bears turned the ball over seven times in their season-opening loss to Harrison. Not all the miscues were the fault of Gose, but the first-year QB was off to a rocky start. But like they say, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“Tyler was in a tough position coming in,” head coach Damon Wells said. “He didn’t have many opportunities during his first three years here.”
Replacing last year’s starter Kyle Sanderson, who led the Bears to a state championship, left some big cleats to fill.
Both Wells and Gose knew that it would take time.
“I’ve worked with coach Wells a ton, and he’s helped me a ton. He makes it easy for me. He tells me what (defense) to read, and I go out and do it,” Gose said.
As quickly as Gose points to Wells, the coach tosses the credit right back at Gose.
“I think everything he’s achieved is a testament to him. As soon as last year was over he started preparing, and preparing for these very moments,” Wells said.
Gose isn’t alone in getting better. The Bears have grown as a team. Having to replace more than 20 seniors from last year’s title team wasn’t easy. Even Wells is a new guy, taking over for longtime coach Darrel Gorham.
Against Elizabeth, the team’s growth was easy to see. So were the ups and downs for Gose. He finished 7 of 12 passing for 136 yards and two interceptions. Gose knows his role is to control the game and limit his mistakes.
“I feel like I really know what’s going on now,” Gose said. “I feel like I can run the game and set the tempo. Early this season, I didn’t feel like that at all.”
Gone now is the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights struggles. What the long season has produced is a confident, poised quarterback. What the Bears have now is a leader on the field and someone who may be the perfect complement to his fiery coach.
“His demeanor is his strength,” Wells said. “Sometimes I get a little fired up, and he’s the calming influence on the field.”
Exactly what a coach wants on the field at the quarterback position.
After some early mistakes, the Bears’ final two possessions of the half were like watching an honor student nail a final exam.
Gose calmly engineered a 12-play, 87-yard drive to give the Bears’ a 13-7 lead. The drive had 11 runs and just one pass, a perfect strike for 16 yards to Bryce Enewold.
After Keith Fraser registered a sack on fourth down, the Bears had just 1:14 left until halftime.
Gose hooked up with Andrew Schmidt for 22 yards and then found Enewold for 18 moving the ball to the 6-yard line. Enewold scored two plays later to give the Bears a 20-7 lead.
For the previously inexperienced Bears, it was an example of how far they’ve come in a season where expectations may not have been that high.
Now, the Bears are one win away from earning the chance to defend their title.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Enewold said.
That’s what they’ve done throughout the season. Learning, growing and getting better. It’s what every team strives for. It’s what the Bears have accomplished.
The tests keep coming and the Bears keep passing, and keep on playing.
“We have to play Rifle football, and if we do that I think we have a great shot,” Gose said.
A modest statement from a quarterback whose play and development speak volumes.
Semifinals ” this team? That quarterback?
Not many people that it was possible back in early September.
Not even Tyler Gose. But November ain’t September and the Bears are ready for their next test.
A test they’ve been preparing for all year.
Dale Shrull is the managing editor of the Post Independent.
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Six members of the Glenwood Springers Track and Field Club traveled to Aurora July 10-11 to compete in the Colorado State Junior Olympic Meet with coach Anne Swanson.