JV Titans nearly upset the Bears
Post Independent Staff
PEACH VALLEY ” For a first-time meeting, Coal Ridge and Rifle’s football teams exceeded all expectations.
After spotting Rifle a 22-6 lead at halftime, the first-year Titans, a school consisting entirely of freshmen and sophomores, played even-steven with the established Bears and nearly pulled an upset in Monday’s junior varsity contest.
Coal Ridge scored two of its three touchdowns in the second half of a 22-20 thriller that wasn’t decided until the game’s final three minutes.
More importantly, the initial athletic contest between both schools was well-played with high doses of respect and honor displayed by the players toward each other.
“It was a very clean game. There wasn’t any smack talk going on and the kids were playing hard on both sides,” said Coal Ridge head coach Jim Hoffman.
“We came out and tried to beat them,” said Titans running back Kevin Screen, who sparked the Titans’ comeback by returning a Rifle punt 90 yards for a touchdown. He also scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter. “But it was a good, hard, clean football game.”
The hardest thing for Hoffman and his staff, the coach said, was trying to keep the Titans’ emotions under wraps leading up to the game.
“We tried to keep it a normal week,” Hoffman said. “But, deep down inside everybody knows it wasn’t just another game. It is a rivalry game.”
“Everyone was real excited and we couldn’t wait to play this game,” Screen said.
The emotion of playing Rifle for the first time also spilled over to Coal Ridge’s student body as well.
“It was like playing our older brothers and sisters,” said Titans cheerleading squad captain Nadine Chavez. “We wanted to beat them. But it was a friendship thing, too. Everybody wanted to see all their friends from Rifle. It was kind of weird.”
The game turned weird for Rifle when Screen tipped momentum Coal Ridge’s way with his punt return.
“That psyched everyone up,” Screen said.
“I was so excited,” added Titans quarterback Keenan Grumley of Screen’s run. “It was so cool.”
In the second half Coal Ridge cooled Rifle’s offense to
near-freezing. After giving up a 73-yard kickoff return for a score on the first play of the game and two TD’s by Tyler Chapman on runs of 25 and 64 yards later in the first two quarters, the Titans hung a zero on Rifle in the game’s latter two periods.
Screen narrowed the gap to 22-14 with his four-yard TD run along with David Anderson’s two-point conversion with 22 seconds left in the third quarter.
Fumble recoveries by Coal Ridge in the fourth period set the tone for the rest of the game.
After picking up a loose ball by a Rifle player on a Titan punt. Grumley called his own number and scooted into the end zone from 29 yards out. The attempt to tie the game fell short when Anderson was tackled at the two yard line.
With 3:35 left, the Titans Josh Alsop recovered a second Bear fumble at the Titan 35. Three plays later, after gaining a first down, the drive ended when Grumley’s fourth-down pass to Anderson was batted away.
“Man this is awesome,” said Titans lineman Kody Roper as the final seconds ticked away.
The worst part is a rematch won’t occur for at least a few years.
“When we start playing on Friday nights (as a varsity-level team), we won’t play Rifle, Hoffman explained. “That won’t happen unless we bump into that league. And, we’d have to have a whole lot of students to do that. But, they were excited to play their friends tonight.”
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.