Rifle spring sports looks to take a step forward
Post Independent contributor
Spring sports are in the air at Rifle High School. It’s the time of year where players and coaches often have as much of a tussle battling the weather as they do with the opponent on the other side of the field.
The Rifle Bears will swing into spring with optimism in full bloom as baseball, track and field, girls soccer, and girls golf will take center stage.
In his 24th season at the helm of the Rifle baseball program, veteran coach Troy Phillips will hope to lead the Bears back to prosperity in the 4A Western Slope League after a down 2018 campaign.
Chris Bomba has a veteran group of boys and girls who should make a run at the 3A WSL track and field title.
Coach Jeremy Harrison takes over the Rifle soccer program after serving as an assistant last year.
And Tod Smith will have the pleasure of coaching two of the best golfers on the Western Slope in Masi Smith and Breanna Seay when the Bears hit the links for the first time Tuesday at the Tiara Rado golf course in Grand Junction.
Head Coach: Troy Phillips, 24th season
Last season: (6-13, 4-8 WSL)
Key Returners: Derek Wagler, Jr.; Randy Starks, Sr.; Eddie Medina, Sr.; Levi Warfel, Jr.; Wyatt Warfel, Sr.
Others to Watch: David Corral, Jr.
Season Outlook: After a disappointing 2018 season, Coach Troy Phillips hopes to get his Bears back to the old-fashioned work ethic and attention-to-detail brand of baseball that has made Rifle into a regular at the top of the league standings. Some solid veterans and a strong freshman class could be just the tonic the Bears need to turn things around this year.
“We’re hoping we can get back to the culture of a few years ago where the kids just wanted to come in, work hard, and have a team-first attitude,” said Phillips. “We have some good freshmen coming in that will challenge our older kids to get better. There will be a lot of competition.”
Phillips points to Palisade and Glenwood as being the preseason league favorites.
TRACK AND FIELD
Head Coach: Chris Bomba, third season
Key Returners: Delaney Phillips, Jr.; Hailey Holmes, Sr.; Hope Kehr, Jr.; Amanda Green, Sr.; Ashley Minera, Sr.; Emilee Demonn, Sr.; Joel Lopez, Sr.; Tanner Vines, Sr.; Bryce Schanech, Sr.; Tanner Cotner, Jr.; Duke Brady, Sr.; Andrew Borrego, Sr.
Season Outlook: Bomba and his team have a goal to bring the 3A Western Slope League championship to Rifle. With several state qualifiers back on the ladies side of things, and a crop of talented boys, the Bears could possibly realize a championship dream come the early part of May.
“We are pretty excited about this team,” said Bomba. “We have a bunch of boys who return this year who were close to qualifying for state last year. We return all the girls from last year except Sarah Wagler. Our goal is to qualify more kids for state this year and bring home a league championship.”
Head Coach: Jeremy Harrison, first season
Last Season: 1-14 (0-12 in 4A Western Slope League)
Key Returners: April Quinones, Jr.; Alejandra Carranza, Sr.; Gethsemani Ruiz, Sr.; Jessica Ramos, Soph.; Natalie Diaz, Sr.
Others to Watch: Bailey Braun, Fr.; Sayra Salgado, Sr.
Season Outlook: After serving as the team’s assistant coach last season, Harrison will try to help guide the Bears to an improvement on their one-win season in 2018. Rather than victories though, the focus for this Rifle group will be to establish a consistent effort and get better each day as the season progresses. Harrison welcomed 26 girls out for the team a few weeks ago when spring practice started.
“We talk a lot to the team about giving an uncommon effort,” said Harrison. “Going above and beyond each day and taking the little steps to get better. We do have a growth mindset, but the girls know if they take care of the little things on the field, we can be competitive.”
Harrison mentioned Glenwood, Battle Mountain and Steamboat as the possible front-runners in a very strong 4A WSL.
Head Coach: Tod Smith, third season
Last Season: Rifle qualified entire team for state tournament.
Key Returners: Masi Smith, Sr.; Breanna Seay, Jr.; Caroline Hays, Fr.; Ashley Jewell, Fr.
Season Outlook: Coach Tod Smith will rely heavily on his daughter Masi, and Breanna Seay to carry the bulk of the Rifle scoring at tournaments this season. Masi Smith is fresh off a 14th-place finish at the state meet in 2018, and Coach Smith expects her and Seay to be factors in this year’s state tournament. With very little depth, it may be hard for Rifle to repeat the accomplishment of qualifying the entire team for state the last three years, but if one, or both, of the freshman for Rifle can come through, the Bears may be able to make it four straight trips to state as a team.
“We’ll have two of the best players in the league (Smith and Seay), and I’m expecting them to qualify for state,” said Smith. “Scoring as a team though, will depend on the younger girls and how they develop.”
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The teams aren’t vying to one up the other in the rankings or looking to get a leg up in the league standings this fall, but that will hardly make the stakes any less meaningful for Basalt and Glenwood Springs high schools when they meet on the football field Friday night.