Starting where they left off
RIFLE ” Something looked very familiar at Bears Stadium Friday night.
As the 2005 Rifle High School football team put the finishing touches on a 7-6 win over Eagle Valley, a new era of Bears’ football looked an awful lot like the old era.
In an ironic twist, the 2005 team notched its first win of the season with the same score that the 2004 team ended its legendary Class 3A State Championship run with when the Bears beat Sterling 7-6 at Bears Stadium.
With 21 players gone to graduation and only three coaches back from the title team, the Bears were looking at a number of question marks. But they still showed the same hard-nosed, hard-hitting, hard-running and tough defensive tradition that the Bears have long been known for.
First-year head coach Damon Wells was very satisfied with the victory.
“I’m really happy for the kids,” he said. “It’s really nice for them to get this first win. We’re a very inexperienced team. I thought we played well, especially on defense in the second half.”
The Bears opened the season with 14-6 loss at Harrison. Friday night’s win provided a stiff test by a feisty Devil team, which is playing its second season in the 3A ranks after moving up last year. Rifle is now 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the Western Slope Conference, while the Devils are 1-1 overall and 0-1 in WSC play.
Rifle junior fullback Tyler Thompson led the way for the offense with 108 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown, a 43-yard scamper in the first quarter.
Bryce Enewold added the extra point, which turned out to be the difference.
Eagle Valley answered in the second quarter with a 12-play drive led by the punishing running of senior fullback Chris Harvey who had 24 yards on the 80-yard drive. Cody Comerford broke free on a 35-yard run to set up Sean Matheson’s 5-yard TD run.
That’s when Thompson got back into the act when he tackled the holder after a muffed snap on the extra point.
Defensively, the 2004 Bears showed their hard-hitting style was still in tact. Josh Gustad made several key tackles and stopped an Eagle Valley drive when he pounced on a fumble at the Devils’ 31.
The drive was thwarted when quarterback Tyler Gose’s pass was picked off at the goal line by Eagle Valley’s Kenny Slaughter.
Enewold broke up two passes to stop the Devils’ drive, then caught a 32-yard pass from Gose to move the ball to the six-yard line as the clock expired in the second quarter.
In the second half both teams turned up the heat defensively.
Bears’ senior Andrew Schmidt went to his knees for a nifty interception in the third.
Behind the running of Thompson, Gose and Hazen Moss, the Bears moved the ball to the 24 but a holding penalty then a fumble ended the drive.
Schmidt pinned the Devils deep with a 36-yard punt.
As Devils’ quarterback Michael Medsker dropped back, it looked like his receiver was wide open but Schmidt made a perfect play on the ball, slashing in front of the receiver for his second interception of the game.
Then the Bears went to work on a classic blue-collar-like drive. Rifle ground out first down after first down to slowly kill the clock to secure their first win in the Wells’ era.
Enewold powered for two first downs, one on a two-yard gain and another on a four-yard run. Thompson found running room for another first down, then Gose ripped through the middle on a keeper for a five-yard run on fourth-and two with 1:07 remaining.
Moss did the rest with a twisting, turning 12-yard run, followed by a three-yard dive to the six. Gose took a knee on the next play to run out the clock.
The game was delayed for about a half an hour due to rain and lightning.
Next week, the Bears will face another WSC test when they travel to Steamboat Springs Friday night.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.