Rifle stays in the league-title chase | PostIndependent.com

Rifle stays in the league-title chase

Jon Mitchell
Layton Stutsman of the Rifle Bears runs through a hole as Chase Nieslanik left, Robert Hiles behind, Cristian Gonzalez right, work to bring him down, Friday night at Stubler Memorial Stadium, where Rifle beat Glenwood 20 to 13.
Christopher Mullen |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Rifle High School’s football team played keep-away from the Glenwood Springs Demons on Friday night. And by doing that, the Bears kept themselves in the running for at least a share of the Class 3A Western Slope League title.

Brock Clark rushed for 110 yards on 13 carries for a Bears running game that pushed, pulled and grounded out yardage. It led to a 20-13 victory for Rifle, leaving the Bears in a position to win another league championship and likely leaving the Demons on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

“Our personality when we run the football now is going to be long, sustained drives instead of one huge, long run,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “But I thought we threw the ball well too.”

Indeed, Rifle showed balance on offense, finishing with 426 yards of total offense and 260 rushing yards. The Bears, however, ran 60 offensive plays to Glenwood’s 37, limiting the Demons’ opportunities to rally in the fourth quarter.

And with that, the Bears (8-1 overall, 5-1 league play) have an opportunity to win at least a share of the league championship for the fourth consecutive year. They still sit atop the league standings with Palisade — a 20-14 winner over Eagle Valley on Friday night — and can win it outright with at home against Summit and a Palisade loss to Delta next week.

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Then, there’s the whole rivalry thing the schools have going. Rifle’s win was the fourth straight for the Bears, who haven’t lost to the Demons since 2010.

“Getting a win in this league is awesome,” said Rifle quarterback Layton Stutsman, who finished 5-of-10 passing for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “We try to treat them like any other team, but winning at Glenwood is special.”

Rifle, which was ranked No. 7 in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s wildcard point standings, also shored up a postseason berth with the victory.

The Demons (5-4, 4-2 league), however, were ranked No. 15 in the point standings headed into the game. The top 16 teams reach the postseason, and the Demons will likely drop in the rankings thanks to Friday night’s loss.

“We had just some terrible mistakes tonight,” said Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth, whose team would have had a chance to win the league championship with a victory. “Turnovers, penalties, special-teams plays. And you can’t do those things against a team of Rifle’s caliber, because there’s no room for error.”

It was Rifle’s errors, however, that got Glenwood back into the game.

The Bears struck first on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Stutsman to Ty Leyba, giving the Bears a 6-0 lead after the point-after kick from Eduardo Sandoval missed. But Glenwood took the lead with 11 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter when Zane Lundin intercepted a Stutsman pass and returned it 40 yards to the endzone untouched, giving Glenwood a 7-6 lead after Robert Hiles’ point-after kick.

Rifle, after missing a 27-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, got the ball to start the second half when David Fugita recovered a pooch kickoff on the Demons 34-yard-line. Eight plays later, Clark ran in from 3 yards out to give Rifle a 12-7 lead when the conversion run failed.

Glenwood came right back, retaking the lead with a 3-yard TD run from Luke Prosence that capped a six-play, 69-yard drive that was aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Glenwood QB Dante Sparaco. But back came the Bears, as Stutsman’s 69-yard completion to Tyler Bosshardt set up his 1-yard TD run that put the Bears ahead to stay with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

The Demons had their chances, but their ensuing drive stalled at the Bears’ 35 and, after forcing a three-and-out possession from the Bears, were stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Bears’ 15 after driving there from their own 36.

On the ensuing play, Clark broke loose for a 53-yard run and, four plays later, his 6-yard run on a fourth-and-2 at the 24 with less than 2 minutes remaining essentially sealed the win for Rifle.

“Glenwood was doing a great job with what they do, and our line was just hammering them every play,” Clark said. “That’s what opened things up to that play. We never let up.”

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