Rifle stays perfect with shutout win
RIFLE – When you’re No. 1, good things just happen.
That’s not to imply Rifle’s football team didn’t make its own breaks in Friday’s 34-0 Western Slope Conference win over Steamboat Springs. But, the Sailors appeared to go out of their way to make it easier for the Bears to earn its eighth victory (and fourth in the WSC) of the season.
Turnovers were the difference.
Rifle’s defense forced Steamboat into three interceptions, and recovered two. Three of those turnovers were converted into touchdowns.
J.R. Childress’ first-quarter steal of Sailor quarterback David May’s pass deep inside Steamboat territory turned into the game’s first score.
Jason Enewold found a streaking Mike Birdsley in full stride for a 41-yard catch-and-run after the turnover for a 7-0 lead after Kyle Sanderson added the extra point.
“We had to loosen (the Sailors) up a little bit, because they were bringing everybody. That’s why we went to the passing game,” said coach Darrel Gorham, of shifting from his team’s normal running attack to the air route.
But Steamboat came right back at the Bears.
After forcing a fourth-down punt, a Bear personal foul penalty gave the Sailors a short field with which to work.
Starting from Rifle’s 32, Steamboat drove to the 1-yard line in six plays.
Then they shot themselves in the foot.
Instead of sticking with the pass, which had gotten them to that point, the Sailors opted to run at the Bears.
Ross Hunter and Anthony Alfini tackled running back Pat McMahon for a 1-yard loss. Joel Adams, the Sailors other quarterback, gained the yard back a play later.
The next play, trying to tunnel his way into the end zone, Adams lost the handle on the football somewhere between the snap and plunging into the Rifle line and the bears recovered.
Given a reprieve, the Bears failed to add to its lead in the first half. But, the flawed drive did take something out of the Sailors.
“That goal-line stand kind of set the tone,” said Gorham.
And the Bear defense continued to apply itself after intermission.
Steamboat’s offense was on the field for just two series and seven plays in the third quarter. Between the drives, Rifle boosted its lead to 13-0 on Troy Weiss’ 4-yard touchdown run.
Aaron Jewell personally made sure Steamboat would remain scoreless the rest of the evening.
The junior defensive back had two interceptions and recovered a fumble in the second half.
His thief of backup QB Joel Adams pass at the Bear 15 after Weiss’ TD halted a promising Sailor drive.
The turnover allowed Rifle to move out to the 44 before turning the ball over on downs.
Once Steamboat had the ball, Jewell rose to the occasion again.
The defense forced a fumble and Jewell found the loose ball.
Four plays later the Bears took advantage of the turnover and Rifle secured the win on an Enewold-to-Childress screen pass.
The 17-yard pass, along with Enewold’s two-point conversion increased the Bear lead to 21-0.
Weiss, who ended with 119 rushing yards on 20 carries, scored his second touchdown with 4:32 left.
Then Jewell capped his performance by scoring himself.
In the game’s final moments, Jewell snared a flanker screen at midfield and ran untouched into the end zone with 1:34 to go.
“It’s something that we knew they were going to do. We were just waiting for the time to happen” Gorham said of the play. “Jewell read it, intercepted it and went in.”
Friday’s win ensured Rifle a spot in the Class 3A state playoffs. Now, they can concentrate their attentions to earning its second straight WSC crown in as many seasons.
And, the rest of the schedule appears to favor the Bears.
They finish up the conference schedule against two teams in the bottom half of the WSC in Montezuma Cortez and Glenwood Springs.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.