Palisade upsets inconsistent Bears |

Palisade upsets inconsistent Bears

PALISADE ” Dazed by a 3-1 loss to last-place Palisade, Rifle tried to raise its spirits as they came off the field with the fact they are in next week’s Class 4A state playoffs.

The defeat left Bears’ head coach Tom Taucher with more questions than answers concerning the team’s up-and-down performances this season.

“It’s been frustrating. We’re not real consistent,” he said. “We played three really good games, and now (the last) two games that are more reflective how we looked earlier in the year.”

It’s a pattern Taucher looks to reverse as Rifle (5-7-0 league, 8-7-0 overall) prepares to start the playoffs on the road next week.

“That’s a good question,” the coach said as he searched for an answer to the Bears less-than-stellar performance against the previous 1-9-1 Bulldogs. “We can beat the No. 4 team in the state in Montrose, then we give away games to non-playoff teams. It’s kind of the way the season’s gone.”

One problem the Bears can point to in Thursday’s loss was their lack of defense in the early moments of the first half.

Left unmarked, the Bulldogs’ Cody Wallace scored an easy goal against Rifle goalie Justin Harris, who watched the Palisade forward waltz into the offensive zone without a Bear defender within 10 yards. Wallace completed the play by skipping a low shot to the low corner by Harris, who tried in vain to cut to the angle.

Harris created his own problem when he mistakenly handled the ball outside the goalie box four minutes later.

The play resulted in a Bulldogs cornerkick, which Harris stopped. But the keeper’s good play was thwarted when Palisade’s Alex Haywarth knocked in the rebound on the opposite side of the goal.

Rifle got a break late in the first half when a Palisade defender was called for a hand ball in the penalty area. Stuart Stapleton converted the penalty kick to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half prior to intermission.

But, despite an upturn of offensive pressure throughout the second half, Rifle came away empty, and saw Wallace add the insurance goal in the 79th minute for the final score.

Now, with all first-round playoff games needing to be played by next Wednesday, at least the Bears have a few days to figure out their problems. Rifle’s first-round opponent, along with the rest of the Class 4A, 32-team bracket will be released Sunday by the Colorado High School Activities Association.

“We just need to go to practice and keep working on it, and hopefully it will click in. We’ve been looking for (the answer) all year,” Taucher said.

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