McGruder, Rifle push past Bulldogs
PALISADE – All the Rifle boys’ soccer team needed to beat Palisade was a little nudge. Or, in this case, a big shove that eventually led to a 3-1 Rifle victory.
After pulling to a 1-1 tie midway in the first half, an overanxious Bulldog defender got caught by the referee pushing Rifle’s Seth McGruder in the penalty box in the 31st minute.
The foul earned the Bears a penalty shot.
And McGruder, who assisted on Jorge Alvardo’s game-tying goal in the 19th minute, wasn’t about to waste the opportunity.
A quick fake left put Palisade goalie Todd Bondurant out of position, and the senior forward tucked a low shot inside the low right corner for a 2-1 lead until the Bears added an insurance goal in the second half.
The victory on Tuesday broke a two-game winless streak and raised the Bears’ record to 3-3-1 in the 4A Western Slope League and 4-6-2 overall.
McGruder also had an assist on Rifle’s final goal of the contest on a set-up pass to freshman Dylan Menu in the 69th minute.
Goalkeeper Nick Worley turned in a sparking performance in the Bear net with 16 saves. His lone blemish came in the 11th minute when Palisade forward Hansi Feller culminated an offensive run by tapping Chris Sargent’s redirected pass into the net’s lower left hand corner.
The goal sparked Rifle’s up-to-then sputtering offense.
Three minutes after Feller’s goal, a surprised Bondurant barely got over in time to the far post to keep Matt Cunard’s 30-yard free kick out of the net.
The Bears kept the pressure on, maintaining control around the penalty area, while looking for a strong shot on goal.
Operating from the left wing, McGruder launched a high cross pass inside the box. Alvardo pulled the ball down with his chest, whirled, then knocked a shot inside the far post for the tie.
McGruder’s game-winner came 11 minutes later.
The win keeps Rifle in fourth place in the six-team WSL with three games left in the regular season.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Bears were two games back of second place Glenwood Springs. Second place is important, so far as the state playoff picture is concerned, a first- or second-place finish in league play ensures a playoff berth.
On Saturday, Rifle continues it’s second leg of a three-game league road trip when they travel to Craig for a match with Moffat County.
The Bears wind-up the league season with games at Glenwood on Oct. 10 and a Oct. 12 home contest against Battle Mountain.
DELTA – The Rifle Bears softball team, hampered by five errors, fell 5-3 to Delta here Tuesday.
Catcher Skylar Bell led Rifle (11-6 overall, 4-2 in conference) in the losing effort with a triple and a double.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.