Rifle Bears rally falls short against Florence
FLORENCE — The last time Rifle traveled to Fremont County, the Bears upended top-seeded Florence en route to the 2004 state title. A dozen years later, the pair of small school football powerhouses collided again, with the Huskies (1-1, 0-0 2A TriPeaks) outlasting the visiting Bears, 35-26.
The home team opened the scoring midway through the second quarter, as junior quarterback Alec Lucero broke free to score from 19 yards out. Rifle (2-1, 0-0 3A WSL) responded, however, courtesy of a fortunate break, as quarterback Luke Ellis picked up a fumbled snap and plunged forward for a two yard score to knot the game at 7.
Late in the half, Florence went to the air, as Lucero connected with fullback Michael Zotto for a 64-yard strike to reclaim the lead heading into the locker room.
The Bears answered on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, as Ellis lobbed a pass over the defense to senior Drake Montgomery, who took care of the rest to pull the Bears within one.
The trend of quick strike touchdowns continued, as the Huskies responded with a score less than a minute later. Lucero found Zotto for the second time on the evening, this time from 76 yards. The Huskies scored again late in the third, and once more early in the fourth to spread the gap to 35-13 with just over six minutes to play.
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Rifle wasn’t done, though, as Montgomery blasted through the coverage on the ensuing kickoff to shave the deficit to 35-20. The Bears’ sideline erupted as the special teams unit recovered an onside kick, setting up a halfback pass from Montgomery to senior Jacob Boone just moments later. All told, two scores in less than sixty seconds, and Rifle pulled within 35-26.
In the end, however, the hole proved too deep, as the comeback stalled in the waning minutes, resigning the Bears to their first defeat of the campaign.
Rifle head coach Damon Wells knew that the Bears would have their hands full with the perennial 2A state contenders, “It doesn’t matter if they’re 3A or 2A, they’ve been very good for so many years.” Regarding his team’s ability to respond to the loss, Wells added, “We’ll work hard to learn from this game, and get ready to move forward.”
Meanwhile, looking to bounce back from their first year out of the postseason since 1997, Florence head coach Jeremy Nix lauded his team’s efforts, “To play a team as physical and well-coached as Rifle, this is a really good win for our kids.”
Rifle will enjoy an extra week of preparation before a 7 p.m. home contest with Kennedy on Friday, September 23rd at Bears Stadium.
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