Rifle High School football, cheer teams win academic state titles

Jon Mitchell

Rifle High School’s football team may not have won the Class 3A state football title, but the Bears wound up being the state’s best football team in another area.

The school’s football team, along with the school’s cheerleading team, found out Thursday they received academic state championship for their classification in their sport. School officials found out about the accomplishment when they received a package in the mail Thursday, with the contents showing they’d been recognized for the accomplishment.

“It just goes to show the correlation between academics and athletes who perform at a high level,” Rifle High Athletic Director Troy Phillips said.

Rifle’s football team finished with a cumulative GPA of 3.72, which was the best among the 41 Class 3A football teams in Colorado. Rifle’s cheerleading squad won the award at the Class 4A level, finishing with a GPA of 3.51.

The cumulative GPAs for both teams was aided in part by the International Baccalaureate Program, which allows students at the school to take college-level courses that count for more credit on the four-point grading scale. Many of the students who are in the IB program, as it’s called, have grade-point averages which exceed the 4.0 maximum on a regular grading scale.

Such was the case for Rifle’s football team this past fall. On the football field, Rifle finished the season with a 12-2 overall record and won its fourth consecutive 3A Western Slope League title on its way to reaching the 3A state title game for the second time in three seasons. Rifle lost the state title game to Pueblo East, 30-14.

Also, Rifle’s volleyball team finished the season with a 3.85 GPA. It didn’t earn the team title in 4A, but it was good enough for academic all-state accolades and was the highest GPA among Rifle’s fall sports teams.

Officially, Rifle won the Les Schwab Academic Team Championship awards for this fall for both cheerleading and football. Those are the second and third academic team championships in two sports seasons for Rifle. The school’s baseball team, which qualified for the Class 4A state playoffs this past spring, won the academic state team championship for Class 4A with a team GPA of 3.84.

“I think that some of the best baseball teams I’ve had have all been some of the better academic teams I’ve had,” said Phillips, who will enter his 20th season as the school’s baseball coach in the spring. “A lot of the smarter kids that I’ve had have also been the hardest workers on the team, and I love having smart players because they learn how to do things so much faster. The results really show in more ways than one.”

Not to be outdone, Rifle’s girls golf (3.69 GPA), girls track (3.8) and girls soccer teams (3.6) each received academic all-state honors this past spring. To be recognized, a team must have a cumulative GPA of no less than 3.5.

The awards by Rifle follow a continuing trend by high school sports programs in Garfield County. During the 2013-14 winter sports seasons, Coal Ridge’s girls basketball team, as well as the girls basketball, boys basketball and girls swimming teams from Glenwood Springs High, each earned academic all-state recognition.

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