Glenwood, Rifle football poised for rivalry showdown
For nearly a full year, most of the talk around Glenwood and Rifle football has been about the epic 27-21 win for the Bears as Rifle stopped a furious comeback attempt by Glenwood on 4th and 1 from the 2-yard line, marking the sixth consecutive time the Bears topped the Demons in the rivalry matchup.
Fast forward 12 months to Friday night’s matchup at Stubler Memorial Field, which holds the prospect of a thrilling game once again, even if the outcome lost some of its luster last week. Last Friday, Glenwood was forced to forfeit all of its wins in 2017 prior to its Week 8 win over Summit on the road.
Although the schedule shows Glenwood at 1-7 and Rifle at 7-1, Glenwood would be 5-3 if not for the forfeited games. It might not be a big game in terms of playoff positioning now that Glenwood is out of the running, but the Demons are markedly improved this year and would love nothing more than to knock off the Bears and possibly throw a wrench into Rifle’s playoff plans.
Add into the mix that all offseason the Demons have had to hear about the 4th and 1 stop.
“If we can man up this week and prove that we can beat them, it would mean just as much to us as going to the playoffs,” Glenwood senior Jack Ries said. “It would mean everything if we could beat them. It’s been one of my goals is to be them ever since I moved here. Since we haven’t been able to get that win, I’m hoping this year the guys come out focused and play hard to get that win.”
One of the keys to beating Rifle is bottling up the vaunted wing-T attack that head coach Damon Wells and his staff at Rifle run.
For the past 10 years or so, Rifle has become very efficient at running the old-school offense, which has played directly into the vast success Wells and his staff has had overall.
Glenwood head coach Rocky Whitworth has had those same number of years to prepare for the wing-T, but no matter how many times one sees the offense or goes up against it, it’s still such a tough monster to slow down, let alone stop completely.
Discipline and consistency are required against the wing-T.
“The real key to all the movement and action and all the plays they can run off of that is to read blocking schemes and defender areas,” Whitworth said. “You just can’t focus in on one action in the backfield. So, therein, when it comes to young high school defenders, they just have to be disciplined and focus in on reading their keys.”
While Rifle’s offense can certainly provide a defense challenges with all the fakes and misdirections, Glenwood provides its own unique wrinkle in the spread offense under Whitworth as the Demons have three quarterbacks who all see playing time. All three bring something different to the table, which can make it hard for defenses to prepare in one week of preparation.
To hear Wells talk about that challenge, he’s more focused on what his defense does from Rifle’s perspective, rather than worrying about what the Bears have to do for each quarterback when they’re in the game.
“Every team plays multiple kids each week and that presents a unique challenge,” Wells said. “But we feel like our ability to stop people or not, or score points or not, is largely dependent on how our kids execute and how well they play. You know, I just hope that our kids do their job. I guess in one regard, it makes our job a little bit easier because I don’t think anyone will ever be able to successfully prepare for three quarterbacks. We’re not going to have three different plans, so we just have to be responsible, and that’s our goal.”
As the offense gets most of the focus heading into the matchup, both defenses have been stout on the season. Rifle’s defensive unit holds a slight edge in the matchup, allowing an even 17 points per game, compared with Glenwood’s 17.13 points per game. The Demons do hold a turnover advantage over the Bears, forcing 15 turnovers (7 interceptions, 8 fumble recoveries) compared with Rifle’s 12 turnovers (10 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries).
Historically, these two rivals play tightly contested affairs. While it’s not as heated a rivalry as it might have been back before the construction of Coal Ridge High along Interstate 70, splitting the two rivals up, there is a mutual respect from both sides.
“We have a great respect and admiration for Rocky and his staff over there,” Wells said. “He always has his kids prepared for games and they play the right way.”
“It’s just a healthy rivalry,” Whitworth said. “It’s been that way for long time. There used to be many more rivalries in the valley in the old days, but that has kind of gone by the wayside. There’s always a little bit extra with this game because it’s a traditional rivalry, but we just try to take it one game at time. They have done a great job down there and will be the best football team we’ll face all year.”
Kickoff between the visiting Bears and the host Demons is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Stubler Memorial Field in Glenwood Springs.