Roaring fork nips Rifle, 13-12

Dale Shrull
Rifle Citizen Telegram

RIFLE – The smile on James Leonard’s face told the story, and the scoreboard reinforced the point.

Roaring Fork’s 13-12 win over Rifle was an example of a football team making a statement.

“That was a way tough game, Rifle is such a tough team,” Leonard, a senior running back, said. “Rifle has been a huge force in Colorado football for so long, this win means so much to us.”

Leonard led the 2A Rams (2-0) over the 3A Bears (1-1) with two touchdowns and 157 yards rushing.

The nonconference game was a hard-hitting affair that matched two of the best running backs in the region.

While Leonard found running room, especially in the second half where he picked up 119 yards, Rifle’s Troy Weiss was bottled up tight by the Rams’ defense.

“We really played well,” Roaring Fork coach Tory Jensen said. “We played disciplined football, and our defense was outstanding.”

Led by senior lineman Garrett Jameron, Roaring Fork’s defense held Weiss to just 87 yards on 22 carries.

With 8:10 remaining, Rifle’s junior quarterback Kyle Sanderson used a good block from Aaron Jewell to score on a 3-yard run to pull the Bears to within one at 13-12. That’s when senior Taylor Arbaney made the defensive play of the game when he stuffed Sanderson on the 2-point-conversion run to preserve the Rams’ lead.

On Roaring Fork’s next drive, the Bears looked to have grabbed the momentum and the ball.

Jewell made a spectacular interception of a Dan Markoya pass on a third-and-12. But a roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Rams a first down.

Four minutes later, Markoya broke up a fourth-down pass to preserve the victory.

The Bears had eight penalties for 80 yards, all coming in the second half, but coach Darrel Gorham made it clear that there was only one reason for the loss.

“We lost because we were outplayed and outcoached. Give Roaring Fork all the credit, their players played better than our players and their coaches coached better than us,” a frustrated Gorham said.

The Bears took an early lead on an 11-play, 6:08 drive to open the game. Sanderson capped the drive with a gorgeous 32-yard pass to J.R. Childres. Sanderson’s kick was wide left, giving the Bears a 6-0 lead.

Roaring Fork tied the score to open the second half on a 10-play, 5:18 drive with Leonard scoring on an 8-yard run up the middle.

Jewell blocked the PAT to keep the score tied at 6-6.

When the Rams got the ball back near the end of the third, they needed just three hand-offs to their bruising running back to take the lead. Leonard slashed his way for 28 yards on the first carry, then pounded into the middle for two, then dazzled the crowd leaving Rifle defenders in his jet stream with a 29-yard scamper down the right sideline for the score.

Both defenses came up with big plays in the game.

In the first half, Rifle came up with a big stop when Childres and Rocky Rauman tackled Leonard at the 3-yard line for a 4-yard gain on fourth-and-six.

Rifle then went on a 12-play drive but came up empty on the scoreboard. Weiss carried the ball six times to move the Bears to the 28. Sanderson then hit Marcus Carrion on a perfectly set up middle screen for 23 yards. The drive ended when a fourth-down pass to Jewell fell incomplete.

Carrion broke free for several big plays for the Bears, picking up 73 yards on six carries. Sanderson was 9 of 18 for 106 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception.

Throwing sparingly, quarterback Markoya was 3 for 9 for 48 yards. Max Green caught two balls for 41 yards and had a 14-yard TD called back by a penalty.

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