Senior helps push Bears into semifinals
RIFLE ” Mitch Kosht has played in 37 football games in his prep career at Rifle High School. His goal is to play in a 39th contest.
It’s an accomplishment Kosht hopes to reach with a Bears win over Steamboat Springs in Saturday’s Class 3A playoff semifinal. But, it’s not going to be an easy task.
“They are a very good team,” Kosht said of the 10-2 Sailors. “We have a lot of work to do. But, I feel confident that we’ll be prepared.”
And, Kosht, who starts both on offense and defense, could play a big role in Rifle’s try to make the 3A state championship game for the second time in as many seasons.
“Defense is particularly fun because playing middle linebacker is where all the action’s at,” Kosht said. “But there’s something to be said about playing the offensive line, too.”
As a member of the O-line, Kosht and his linemates gave the Bears’ running back the opening to rack-up 350 rushing yards and five running touchdowns in last week’s 35-14 win over Elizabeth.
Kosht credits head coach Damon Wells on the line’s progression.
“Coach Wells sets it up nicely with his game plans and schemes.
Teams are confused and don’t have an answer for a lot of the stuff that we do.”
Defensively, Wells calls on Kosht to interpret what he wants on that side of the ball as well.
It’s the second season he’s filled that role.
“The coaches have a bunch of hand signals that I read, then I call the defense on the field for different blitzes, coverages and tackle alignments.”
A task like that should take a lot of time to master. That’s not the case, Kosht said.
“To be honest, it doesn’t take much time. I learn the signals at practice. They’re not incredibly complicated.”
It shouldn’t be for Kosht, whose high scores on college entry tests has him shooting to be accepted at Stanford University and/or the Naval Academy.
“Yeah it’s a load,” said Kosht of juggling playing football and maintaining his grades. “But, I’m enjoying it all. School’s always come fairly easy for me.”
It’s just as easy for him to switch his attention back to football and specifically Steamboat, who defeated Rifle 14-12 in conference play on Sept. 16.
“I’m sure that’s a game everybody feels that we should have won,” Kosht said. “We had the ball fourth down and a foot to go on the 5-yard line or something real similar to that. And we didn’t get it done.”
“They stopped us. That obviously hasn’t been the case the last (few) weeks.”
Rifle has won five straight games, including playoff victories over Northridge and Elizabeth since falling to Class 2A quarterfinalist Roaring Fork earlier this season.
The turn in Rifle’s season, Kosht said, came the week of the Moffat County game.
“The week before the Moffat game it was kind of a revelation to the seniors, because we were in danger of not making the playoffs if we would have lost that game. You could see that in practice.”
The rest of the team picked-up what the seniors felt, and were determined to make changes.
“Everybody (on the team) had that ‘un-huh’ moment and realized if we lose, this was going to be the last meaningful football game that we could ever play in again. Just before and during that game, we found a lot of fire and came together as a team.”
Rifle defeated the Bulldogs that night. The win helped clinch a playoff berth. Since that victory, the Bears have won four straight games.
This time, with a spot in the state title game riding on the outcome, Saturday’s return engagement between the two conference rivals has more spice attached to it.
“It’s different when the playoffs roll around,” Kosht said. “Because you have to give 100 percent. Everybody has to put all their chips in and hold nothing back. When that happens, in my experience, good things happen.”
Kosht hopes the good things continue for two more weeks. If they do, he will be wearing another state championship ring.
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In a fraction of a second I went from a full sprint to skidding across the ground — pea-sized gravel gashing my knees and elbows, turning them into strawberry crisp.