Win awakens memories for Bears |

Win awakens memories for Bears

Jon Mitchell
Rifle High School's Brock Clark runs for yardage during the first half of the Nov. 22 Class 3A semifinal against Fort Morgan at Bears Stadium in Rifle. The Bears defeated the Mustangs in that game, 35-7, to advance to the 3A state championship game.
FILE: Darcy Copeland / DC Photo |

RIFLE — Not five minutes after Rifle High School’s football team defeated Fort Morgan 35-7 in the Class 3A semifinals on Saturday, the Bears weren’t just looking ahead, but looking back.

“This feels great,” Rifle senior running back and linebacker Brock Clark said. “And it feels great … to get another chance.”

For sure, there are a lot of seniors on Rifle’s roster who were sophomores when the Bears made it to the 3A state title game in 2012, when Rifle lost 32-15 to Silver Creek. All total, many of the 14 seniors on this year’s team got significant playing time even as underclassmen.

And ever since that title-game loss to the Raptors at Legacy Stadium in Aurora, the memories of that loss has lingered for some of them.

“I didn’t play and just watched from the sideline,” senior offensive and defensive lineman Jose Prado said. “But even just watching from the sideline, I hated that feeling after we lost. I still hate it. Now this year, we have a chance to do something about it.”

While Prado was one of the kids who didn’t see much time in that game, there were other players who saw plenty of time as sophomores. Among them was Austin Shepherd, who was one of two starting inside linebackers for the Bears in the state title game. Also seeing lots of on-field time was senior Layton Stutsman, who played cornerback. Other seniors who were on the 2012 team were Austin Knight, Cody Rice, Alex Gould and David Fugita.

And some of the players have already learned a few things from that state championship week Rifle went through two years ago.

“Honestly, we just have to treat this like it’s just another game,” said Stutsman, who is now the Bears’ starting quarterback. “There’s going to be a lot of distractions now, so we’ve got to do our best to block those out.”

Quoth the Rifle defense: never score

The Bears have been lights out on defense in its three state playoff games.

During Rifle’s three postseason games against Northridge, Roosevelt and Fort Morgan, the Bears have allowed an average of just 175 yards of total offense to its opponents. What’s more, the 1-yard touchdown run that Fort Morgan sophomore running back Tate Kembel scored in the second quarter Saturday was the first touchdown allowed by Rifle’s first-team defense in the playoffs this year.

Each of the touchdowns scored by Northridge during Rifle’s 61-13 victory came after the Bears had taken a 61-0 lead and had emptied their bench.

“That’s been the big key for us, just to be more physical than the other team,” Clark said.

On the road again

Rifle will make its second trip to the Front Range this month when the Bears play Pueblo East on Saturday for the 3A state title. According to, the round-trip mileage the Bears have accumulated during the playoffs will be more than 1.044 miles, which only accounts for round trips from Rifle High to both Roosevelt High in Johnstown and Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Pueblo.

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