Bears beat Bulldogs by inches
Rifle survives 42-35 marathon in offensive showdown
That's the sound of the crown, players and coaches exhaling after a nonstop offensive display Friday in Moffat County.
Rifle prevailed, 42-35, on a last-second goal-line stand against the Bulldogs in both team's Class 3A Western Slope League opener.
Fans didn't have much time to relax as they watched 11 touchdowns and more than 700 yards in offense. This wasn't what either team planned coming in to Friday.
"This was a little more of a test than we expected," Rifle coach Anthony Alfini said. "We had a lot of mistakes, but we fought the adversity and came out on the winning side."
Moffat County coach Kip Hafey didn't sound like a coach whose team had just come within inches of at least a chance to tie or win.
"Our team grew tremendously tonight," he said. "Nobody expected us, a very young and inexperienced team, to compete with a traditional powerhouse like Rifle."
Rifle opened up the scoring with a 2-yard run from Dano Fugita less than four minutes into the game. Moffat County came back four minutes later with a four-yard keeper from quarterback Matt Linsacum but missed the point after.
After an interception, the Bulldogs took the lead on a four-yard run from Pablo Salcido with 2 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first quarter.
Fugita scored again for the Bears just inside the start of the second quarter. This time is was on a 27-yard screen pass from Ryan Rebhan.
A poor snap on a punt attempt for Moffat County led to Rifle's second lead of the night. Rebhan ran the ball in two plays after the bad punt snap for a 21-14 Bears lead.
On Moffat's next possession Haylen Ramond set up the Bulldogs with a 40-yard kickoff return. Lyle Schaffner finished off a seven-play drive with a two-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21.
That's where it finished at the half.
Moffat County came out the second half and started where they left off. A 45-yard pass play to Salcido set up a 16-yard touchdown run for Kettle.
For the first time in the game, both teams stalled on their next offensive possessions. But for the second time in the game, a poor snap on the punt cost the Bulldogs. This time the Bears took the blocked punt into the end zone to tie it at 28.
"We could have given up many times," Hafey said. "But our kids kept battling and kept answering after mistakes."
This time Kettle busted a 36-yard run and Salcido finished off the drive with an 18-yarder with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter. This gave Moffat a 35-28 lead.
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The fourth quarter would belong to the older and bigger Bears. James Martinez made one of his best runs of a 15 carry, 174-yard night with a 30-yard run with 9:25 remaining in the fourth.
The Bulldogs got a punt off on their next possession, but the bad news was that the Bears were still coming on offense. Two third-and-long conversions in Moffat's territory led to a 10-yard touchdown catch by Brian Key and Rifle's first lead of the second half, 42-35.
Moffat had one final chance with 3:03 remaining and 60 yards to go. The Bulldogs looked on their way with a 36-yard pass from Linsacum to Kettle on fourth-and-11 from the Rifle's 41. The Bulldogs had three chances within two yards of the end zone but were stuffed every time. The last one coming from two feet out and 1.2 seconds left.
"Our guys fought tonight, and we pulled it out," Alfini said. "Fourth and one with two seconds is what you play through your head all the time in the backyard, and tonight we had that chance and came through."