Rifle wears down Glenwood, 34-7, in rivalry showdown
As Rifle senior Levi Warfel raced untouched down the left sideline late in the first half on his way to an 85-yard touchdown, the wind was swept right out of Glenwood Springs’ sails Friday night as the jaunt through the Demons’ defense sent Rifle on its way to a 34-7 win at Stubler Memorial Field, marking the ninth straight year Rifle has topped Glenwood Springs in the long-standing rivalry.
Warfel’s long touchdown came with just 50 seconds left in the first half after Rifle forced a late stop on Glenwood near midfield. Prior to the first play of the drive, Rifle was called for a false start, pushing the Bears deep into their own territory. A well-timed call for a draw caught the Demons off guard and sent Warfel free down the left sideline, giving Rifle a 20-7 lead at the half before receiving the ball to start the second half.
“I’ve said many, many times that nothing we do works unless we have selfless boys,” Damon Wells, Rifle’s veteran head coach, said following the win. “Our boys have bought in to what we’re teaching, and they believe.”
It wasn’t all positives early for Rifle as on the first play from scrimmage following a Glenwood punt, the Bears fumbled the ball away on a botched handoff, setting Glenwood up at Rifle’s 22-yard line early in the first quarter.
Seven plays later, thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on the Bears that extended the drive, the Demons punched the ball into the end zone as senior Tucker Porter scored from 3 yards out with 5:34 left in the first quarter, giving Glenwood an important 7-0 lead.
“I was extremely pleased with the way our guys opened this game up,” Pat Engle, Glenwood’s second-year head coach, said following the game. “These guys are warriors. I think what happened last week needs to be forgotten about because these kids are just warriors. I’m just so proud of the way the kids played and how the kids handled themselves. The highest compliment you can get from a coach of another team is that your kids played hard, and I think our kids really did that tonight.”
That early 7-0 deficit didn’t phase Rifle, though, as the Bears got the ball back for their second possession and marched 80 yards in 15 plays, thanks to runs of 10 and 11 yards by junior Talon Cordova, and runs of 12 and 11 yards by senior quarterback Holden Stutsman, with the 11-yard run going off right tackle on a designed quarterback keeper, making it a 7-6 game after a missed extra point.
“The way we responded was awesome,” Wells said. “There was really no emotion on our sideline after that fumble; there was no yelling, nobody was upset; it was calm and quiet. We know from playing Glenwood for so many years that their kids are going to be tough to play and how hard they’re going to play, so we just buckled up for the ride.”
Into the flow of the game at that point, the Rifle defense came up with a second straight big stop of the Glenwood offense, again near midfield, after the Demons moved the ball thanks to a 10-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Evan Heyl to senior Sam Fitzwilliams, and an 11-yard run by junior Blake Nieslanik.
Taking over possession after a 38-yard punt by Glenwood senior punter Patrick Young, Rifle’s offense went to work again, marching 78 yards in 10 plays to take a 13-7 lead off of a 28-yard middle screen to Warfel from Stutsman on 2nd and 19 that saw Warfel weave through the Glenwood defense for the score with 3:51 left in the first half.
That’s when Glenwood tried to answer before the half as Heyl found junior Wheatley Nieslanik for 6 yards and Fitzwilliams for 8 yards, before finding senior fullback Elliot Walz for a gain of 13 yards, setting Glenwood up at midfield.
After that connection, though, the Demons’ promising drive stalled, forcing another punt by Young that pinned Rifle at the 20-yard line.
Less than a minute later Warfel found himself racing down the left sideline for the 85-yard touchdown, giving Rifle the 20-7 lead at halftime.
“He’s as tough as they come,” Wells said. “One of the best parts about Levi is that he leads by example. He doesn’t say much, but you can always depend on him to be in the right place and doing the right thing for us.”
Riding the emotional high of the 85-yard touchdown late in the first half, Rifle came out of the locker room with the lead on the road in a hostile environment looking to extend the lead.
The Bears did just that as Rifle started the second half with possession at the 23-yard line and went 77 yards in 11 plays, riding the back of senior running back Kenny Tlaxcala to set up Stutsman’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Cordova on 4th and 9, all but ending any semblance of hope the Demons had for a second-half comeback. Stutsman’s strike to Cordova made it 27-7 with 5:32 left in the third quarter.
Trailing by 3 scores at home on homecoming, Glenwood didn’t bat an eye and continued to battle.
Offensively, Glenwood went 3-and-out on its first drive of the second half, putting a tired defense out on the field, but that senior-laden defense came up large for Glenwood.
Rifle marched to the 1-yard line and faced a 4th and Goal, where the Demon defense stopped Warfel short of the goal line, forcing a turnover on downs that gave the Demons a much-needed spark.
“Right now, I think we’ve found our leadership,” Engle said. “I’m so proud of every senior on this team. They’ve sold out; they’ve completely sold out for this program. They’re leading this group well, and the only thing that’s not happening for them right now is that they’re not getting the win.”
Following the goal line stand, Glenwood couldn’t mount an offensive drive as Young punted the ball back to the Bears midway through the fourth quarter.
Ten plays later, Rifle punched it into the end zone for the final time on the night as Stutsman snuck in from a yard out, giving Rifle the 34-7 win in the rivalry matchup.
The win sees Rifle improve to 4-0 on the season, while Glenwood falls to 0-4.
Rifle hosts Coal Ridge next Friday for the first 2A Western Slope League of the season for both teams, while Glenwood Springs will host Roosevelt next at Carbondale Middle School due to a dental clinic being held at GSHS that weekend.
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