Momentum shifts favor East in 3A title game
PUEBLO — Momentum had a way of taking drastic swings during Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Dutch Clark Stadium — especially in the second half.
It swung Rifle’s way in the beginning of the third quarter of the Bears’ 30-14 loss to the Pueblo East Eagles. Then it swung East’s way. Then Rifle’s.
Then, it swung in favor of the Eagles — for good.
“Yeah, but it’s all about how you come back from that,” Rifle lineman Gage Johnston said. “But I’d rather not dwell on that because, well, that’s no fun.”
Truth be told, Rifle made sure to come back plenty against a Pueblo East squad with a significant size advantage up front on offense and defense. And the Eagles beat the Bears thoroughly in time of possession, limiting Rifle to 13 minutes, 34 seconds of possession time during the 48-minute game.
Yet, the momentum shifted Rifle’s way when senior running back Brock Clark put the Bears up 14-7 with his 39-yard TD run less than a minute into the third quarter. And the Bears looked like they’d retained that momentum when they sacked East quarterback Daniel Martin for a 13-yard loss on a third-and-29 play on the Eagles’ ensuing drive.
Rifle, however, was flagged for sideline interference on the play when a side judge ran into an assistant coach during the play. So instead of a fourth-and-24, the Eagles had a fourth-and-7 at Rifle’s 27.
The Eagles converted on Martin’s 12-yard pass to Luke Padula and, four plays later, knotted the score at 14 on Martin’s 8-yard strike to Bruno DeRose with 5:51 left in the third quarter.
“All I can say is that there were some things that didn’t go our way,” Rifle defensive back and quarterback Layton Stutsman said.
It seemed like the Eagles had seized that momentum, forcing Rifle into a three-and-out possession before driving inside Rifle’s 10 for the third time in the game. But on a fourth-and-goal at the 1, Rifle’s Ty Leyba stuffed Martin to halt the threat.
It swung right back to the Eagles, though, when Damon Sabbach deflected a first-down pass from Stutsman. It floated into the hands of Johnston, who was tackled by East’s Marco Perez in the end zone while trying to advance the ball.
“Well, the ball was in the air, and I was thinking ‘Am I going to let it fall or catch it?’” the Rifle junior said. “I caught it cause I don’t get the ball very much.”
Would he do it again?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’d do it 1,000 times.”
The safety, however, gave the Eagles a 16-14 lead with 10:33 remaining. It also seemed to give the momentum back to East, as Bryson Torres ran 80 yards for a score on the Eagles’ next play from scrimmage. And after the Eagles recovered a Rifle fumble two plays later, Martin’s 22-yard TD run staked East to a 16-point lead with 8:33 remaining.
“There was definitely a shift in momentum,” Leyba said. “But we did our best to fight back. It just didn’t work out.”
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