Fumbles cost Bears in smash-mouth game against Bulldogs
GRAND JUNCTION – In this case, the score in Rifle’s 20-7 loss to Palisade is misleading. The schism separating the two footballs team is not that much.Both the Bears and Bulldogs displayed their normal style of smash-mouth football in their annual renewal between the two Class 3A Western Slope League foes.The difference in Friday’s game was caused by turnovers.”Moral victories are not what we’re about. We’re in it to win,” said head coach Damon Wells. “My point is it’s not OK that we didn’t win. However our kids fought for 48 minutes. And I promise they fight for 48 minutes every week we’re going to have a shot.”Rifle (3-2 WSL, 4-3 overall) certainly gave it its best shot on both of its first offensive possessions.On the game’s opening kickoff, the Bears moved from their own 20 to Palisade’s 21-yard line only to have that drive stopped on Palisade lineman Jesse Kirstatter’s fumble recovery on a mishandled pitchout by Rifle running back Brian Chapman.Palisade (4-1 WSL, 6-2 overall) turned the fumble into a touchdown when Aaron Wagler scored from a yard out in the eighth play of a drive that began back on the Bulldogs 25 after the turnover.The same thing happened again the second time Rifle got the ball. Moving the ball rapidly to midfield on first down runs of 16 and 12-yards from Brian Key and Hazen Moss, the Bears’ quarterback got hit in the backfield and fumbled the ball to a waiting Palisade defender.Six plays later Wagler scored his second touchdown of the game. Palisade was up 14-0 and things were looking grim on the Bears’ sideline.The two-touchdown deficit failed to quash Rifle’s spirit, however, or its ability to move the ball. Operating from the Bears 20 again, Chapman and Key gained 35 yards between them on consecutive runs to push the ball out to Palisade’s 46.A gain of eight yards on Clayton Spillane’s fourth-down catch from Moss maintained possession. Five plays later the pair connected on an 18-yard touchdown to trim the margin to 14-7 after Scott Rust’s extra-point kick.After forcing Palisade to give the ball over on downs late in the second quarter, the Bears’ confidence was rising as they left the field at halftime.That continued to the seven-minute mark of the third quarter.At that point Palisade started to run. And run. And run some more. Fourteen of the 16 plays the Bulldogs used to score on a 75-yard touchdown drive came off the running game. The biggest of the march – a 13-yard gain by Zach Adair – on third down with eight yards to go from the Palisade 37 kept the march alive.Small runs of seven yards or less moved the ball to the Bears 10. Adair chewed up the remaining ground in one swoop to take a three-touchdown led.With just over a quarter left to work with, Palisade’s defense zeroed in. Except for a handful of plays in the final minutes Rifle’s offense possession consisted of one fourth-quarter first down on a Moss-to-Blatchford pass.The Bears will be back at home next week to play Eagle Valley.
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