Small score nets a big win
RIFLE – The Rifle football team’s slogan – two simple words – proved true Saturday in the Class 3A football championship game.”‘It’s time’ was our slogan all year,” said Bear running back Casie Dunlap after Saturday’s 7-6 victory over Sterling. “This was our goal from the very beginning, and winning it. It’s the best thing in the world.”By Phil SandovalPost Independent Staff
RIFLE – The Rifle football team’s slogan – two simple words – proved true Saturday in the Class 3A football championship game.”‘It’s time’ was our slogan all year,” said Bear running back Casie Dunlap after Saturday’s 7-6 victory over Sterling. “This was our goal from the very beginning, and winning it. It’s the best thing in the world.”And, the Bears made their championship dreams come true with defense – and a key penalty with less than two minutes to play.Rifle forced Sterling into three turnovers, converting one into the game-winning touchdown. The two others, both with the Bears clinging to a one-point lead, stopped the Tigers inside Rifle’s 30.Linebacker Rocky Rauman lifted the Bears’ spirits when he intercepted Tiger quarterback Jeff Squier late in the second quarter after Shane Gertner gave Sterling the early lead on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Jeff Squier in the first quarter. Gertner, who set-up the touchdown with a 78-yard return of the opening kickoff, left the game with a back injury and never returned.”You hope something happens,” said Rifle quarterback Kyle Sanderson. “And the defense came up big.”
Then it was Sanderson’s turn to return the favor.After a 9-yard pass to LaCount, the Bear senior tossed a ball to Jordan Robinson near the right sideline, and Robinson outjumped Sterling cornerback Troy Sides at the Tiger three then zipping into the end zone. “It was a duck and it was horribly thrown,” Sanderson said. “But Jordan made a great play to catch it.””I knew I had to catch it,” Robinson noted. “The tussle didn’t seem hard at the moment. All I knew was I had to get to it.”Sanderson, also Rifle’s kicker, gave the Bears the lead by splitting the uprights after Robinson’s catch.”That extra point is what did it,” said coach Darrel Gorham.
But, no one expected the 7-6 score would stick for the entire second half.After a scoreless third, a Sanderson fumble, combined with a 35-yard Squier to Derek Pilkington strike, moved Sterling to the Bears 12.Three plays netted two yards, setting up an apparent Tigers 29-yard field goal. But Squier, the holder, suddenly jumped up and ran.”It wasn’t an assigned thing,” Squier said. “The snap went left. I caught the ball with my left hand and I had nowhere to run.”Nowhere, except into Rifle lineman Josh Gustad.”I was covering the flats and there was nobody else out there, so I decided to go for him,” Gustad said. “I knew I had him sacked.”
The turnover, with three minutes left, appeared to be just enough time for Rifle to run out the clock. Kind of. The Bears netted five yards in three plays and were forced to punt. But Rifle got a break, maybe the break of a lifetime.Sterling’s Wade Henderson was flagged for roughing Bear punter John Alderson after the punt, giving the ball, with 1:42 remaining, back to Rifle.”That’s a tough judgment,” Squier said. “In a state championship game, it shouldn’t be the refs who are deciding the game. It hurts to go out like that because we would have had fourth down, and they were punting. We get the ball around the 50 and with 1:13, we would have enough time to go deep again.”Instead, Rifle kneeled on the ball and waited for time to expire.”This was a great win for the community,” said Gorham. “Sterling’s got a great team and it was two teams playing as hard as they can. It was pretty awesome.””This was a great win for the community,” said Gorham. “Sterling’s got a great team and it was two teams playing as hard as they can. It was pretty awesome.”
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