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Not quite enough

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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RIFLE, Colo. – Believe.Rifle’s players did, Rifle’s coaches did and even Bear fans believed in their beloved underdogs.And that faith was almost strong enough to fuel an upset on Saturday against top-ranked Alamosa in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state football playoffs.But in the end, Alamosa’s talent- stacked squad edged the Bears for a 34-26 victory in a game that was full of twists and turns and culminated in mass confusion with the scoreboard going out, clock trouble, officials debating and Rifle running out of time after almost completing a seemingly impossible comeback.

After Rifle took early leads of 7-0 and 13-7 in the first half, Alamosa turned on its high-powered offense, directed by 6-foot, 219-pound senior quarterback Clay Garcia, to score on its next three possessions, giving the Mean Moose a 27-19 advantage.With less than five minutes left in the game, the Mean Moose marched downfield again, with help from 29- and 10-yard passes to Jason Espinoza, and took a 34-19 lead on a 2-yard scoring run by Garcia. As the clock ticked under two minutes, it looked like it was over for the Bears.Nick Alderson thought differently.

The senior reeled in a 10-yard pass from Bear quarterback Derek Fruetel and then turned on the jets, zooming down the field for a 79-yard touchdown play. Ryan McIntosh hit the extra point and just like that, Rifle was only down by eight with 1:35 left.”(I was thinking) we were still in -don’t stop. In the huddle everyone’s talking, everyone believes and give or take, we were going after it,” Alderson said.Rifle lined up for an onside kick attempt, but McIntosh booted a line drive straight into Alamosa’s hands. Pressured by Rifle’s defense and frustrated by a close-game feeling they were unaccustomed to, the Mean Moose began to self-destruct. Having already committed 13 penalties totaling 120 yards, Alamosa was zinged for three more penalties, including two unsportsmanlike-conduct calls – one of which came against head coach Manny Wasinger – that backed Alamosa up to its own 7-yard line.”Nobody gave up, we were just hoping for a fumble, an interception, something,” said Rifle’s Tyler Thompson, who had an interception and fumble recovery in the game. “Nobody let down.”Faced with a third-and-50-yard situation, Rifle stopped Alamosa to force a punt. After minutes of official conferences and scoreboard discrepancies, only 4 seconds appeared on the clock and Espinoza, one of Alamosa’s kickers, held on the snap and ran out the remaining seconds.



Even though Rifle outclassed the Mean Moose, the Bear’s found themselves on the short side of the stick.”There is no way I could be more proud of these kids and the way they fought,” said Rifle head coach Damon Wells. “The effort was there.”Garcia finished the day completing 17-of-25 passes for 334 yards, one interception and three touchdowns. His three scoring passes (40- and 14-yarders to Dustin Bolt and a 30-yarder to Sonny Yohn) tied him for the Colorado state record of 44 touchdown passes in one season.Rifle was also impressive on offense with Tyler Thompson rushing 27 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Thompson finished the year as the Bears’ leading offensive player, amassing close to 1,500 yards on the season.

“It’s been a good year – no credit to me, it’s all the offensive line. They work as hard as they can,” Thompson said. “Everything I do is because of them.”Fruetel completed four of 10 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his best outing of the season. The Bears also converted three of four fourth-down attempts, including a fake punt where Tim Long completed a 34-yard pass to Danny Maldonado and a 21-yard pounding run by Caleb Powell.”Everybody was just trying as hard as they could and hope for the best,” Thompson said. “Nobody was intimidated.”It was the last game for 16 senior Bears including Thompson, Long, Alderson, McIntosh, running back Colby McFarlin and tight end Cody Boe, to name a few. All part of another impressive class Wells will miss tremendously.”The only sad part about today for me, it’s not whether we won or lost…to me the saddest part about today is that Monday after school I’m not going to be Tim Long and Tyler Thompson and the other guys,” Wells said. “To me that’s the hardest part.”Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Colo. CO


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