Trojans shock top-ranked Rifle |

Trojans shock top-ranked Rifle

RIFLE – Frustration.

It’s all that remains of Rifle’s football season after Fountain-Fort Carson eliminated the Bears from the Class 3A state playoffs with a 20-6 upset victory Saturday at Bears Stadium.

Rifle, which entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the state, was in a position to pull out the first-round playoff contest late in game, but the team’s failure to make big plays when it counted, combined with an uncharacteristic four turnovers, was the difference.

“In big games, you’ve got to make big plays, and today we just didn’t get it done,” said Rifle coach Darrel Gorham.

And Fountain managed to neutralize Rifle’s most effective big-play threat in running back Troy Weiss. The Trojan defense held the Class 3A leading rusher to a season-low 43 yards on 15 carries.

“(Weiss) is a big play kid,” said Fountain coach Mitch Johnson. “So we spent a lot of time breaking down film on him. We felt if we could keep the ball away from him, Rifle would have a hard time regrouping. That was one of the keys today.”

Weiss and the Bear offense were never able to hit its stride, particularly when a drive was at stake. In drive-sustaining third- and fourth-down situations, the Bears were 1-of-18 in the game.

“This was one of the few times our offense really stumbled,” said Gorham.

The Trojans weren’t much better. They went 4-for-15 in third- and fourth-down situations.

Fountain, however, managed to string together enough conversions, at the right time, to end Rifle’s season.

Trailing 12-6 with 7 minutes left in the game, Rifle failed to convert on fourth-and-8.

Shortly thereafter, Fountain slammed the door on the Bears’ postseason.

Fountain converted on three third-down situations and marched 63 yards in 12 plays for the insurance touchdown. Receiver/running back Chris Paniaqua had two of the drive-sustaining gains scoring march.

The senior’s 29-yard gain on a reverse pulled the Trojans out of a third-and-four hole at its own 43. Four plays later Paniaqua’s 12-yard catch rescued his team when the drive had bogged down on the Bear 26.

Ryan Walker’s 4-yard gain off a quarterback sneak gave Fountain its third first down of the drive at Rifle’s 1-yard line. Fletcher Sergent finished off the drive with a touchdown and the two-point conversion gave Fountain a 20-6 lead with 2:18 left in the game.

“(Rifle) was in the game all the way,” said Johnson. “You have to give hats off to those guys. … It was anybody’s ballgame until we scored in the last few minutes. They are a great team and have been successful all season long. And you never count out a league champion.”

Sergent, who had a game-high 83 yards in 27 carries, was also the catalyst for Fountain’s winning touchdown, but on the defensive side of the ball. With the score tied at 6-6 with 1:24 left in the third quarter, the senior recovered a fumble by Rifle quarterback Jason Enewold.

The Trojans cashed in the turnover six plays later when wide receiver Jerod Ermel grabbed quarterback Ryan Walker’s pass in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game and a 12-6 Fountain advantage.

Ermel scored the game’s first touchdown – a 5-yard pass from Walker – in the second quarter.

Enewold and the Rifle offense never got untracked. The Bears went three-and-out in its final two possession and the senior quarterback – who completed 51 percent of his passes in the regular season – ended the year connecting on just 3-of-14 attempts along with two interceptions.

Weiss did have a shining moment. Down 6-0 at the start of the third quarter, his 42-yard return of a Trojan punt was the tonic Rifle was looking for. But, after moving from the Trojan 29 to the 14 on four straight running plays, the Bears were turned away.

Facing a fourth-and-6 situation on Fountain’s 14, Trojan linebacker Marcell Martin intercepted a Enewold ball intended for Aaron Jewell at the 5-yard line.

Enewold recovered from his miscue by scoring a series later to tie the game at 6-all on a 35-yard keeper around the left end with 3:55 left in the third quarter.

It’s the second time in as many seasons the Bears have suffered a first-round loss at home. Last year, a 44-28 loss to Valley eliminated Rifle from the playoffs.

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