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Rifle’s upset bid fails

Joelle MilholmGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Special to the Post Independent/Todd Spoth
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With 9:21 left in the game, Rifle had the momentum and was looking for another upset as the Bears were down just 24-21 to top-seeded Falcon in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Saturday in Falcon.Then star rusher Keenen Ballage, whom the Bears had held to 55 yards in the first half, broke loose for a 73-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons up 30-21 and deflate the Bears’ attempted comeback. “We didn’t make a few tackles, they broke through, and they made the plays and we didn’t,” said Rifle head coach Damon Wells during a phone interview.Ballage scored one more touchdown in his 213-yard day, lifting the Falcons over Rifle 37-21 and ending the Bears’ hope for an upset.

The Bears had beaten the No. 1-seeded teams in the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, but have now fallen to the top dogs two years in a row.But the Bears sure did make it interesting.”That’s one of the things I love about Rifle High School – playoffs is our time of year,” Wells said. “We love having the challenge of the No. 1 team, and we played hard and had fun, we just wish it would have turned out differently.” Things looked good for Rifle right off the bat as senior Daniel Maldonado had a huge return to the Falcon 22-yard line, but a Rifle fumble gave the ball back to Falcon. The Falcons went down to score after the turnover, but missed the extra point to take a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Falcon added a field goal, but its lead was cut with 9:03 left in the second quarter when Rifle quarterback Hazen Moss found senior Clayton Spillane for a 9-yard TD completion, and the Bears trailed 9-7.Sophomore Logan Powell helped the Bears get the ball right back, recovering a popped up kick, but Rifle was unable to get anything out of it as it missed a 34-yard field goal.The Falcons added to their lead with two more TDs, and a few minutes into the third quarter, went up 24-7 and made it seem like they had the win locked up. Rifle, with its never-say-die attitude, thought differently.With big runs from junior running back Brian Key, who finished the game with 91 rushing yards, Maldonado capped off a long drive with a 9-yard TD run. The Bears missed the extra point, but cut the lead to 24-13.



Then senior lineman Justin Stone forced a Falcon fumble and Rifle recovered. Rifle rolled with it and senior running back Tyler Chapman found the end zone on a 3-yard run. Then, Rifle faked an extra point and junior Ryan Rebhan hit junior James Conrardy with a 10-yard pass for a two-point conversion to pull the Bears within three points.”We were only down by a field goal with eight minutes to go and our defense was stopping them and we really weren’t having trouble moving the ball at that point,” Wells said. “…We thought we had it.”Unfortunately for the Bears, that’s when their upset bid went sour as Ballage took over and helped the Falcons (11-0) into the second round.The Bears ended their season with a 6-5 record. It was hard for Wells to express his gratitude to the 12 seniors who played their last games for Rifle.”I said to them after the game I wish I was a poet and could express with words how much they mean to me, but I will just have to show with actions for the rest of their lives, and I told them that if they ever need anything I will be there for them,” he said.


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