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Bulldogs fall to Bears

Second-half effort shows promise but comes up short

David Pressgrove

The Moffat County High School football dressed the part of hunters before Friday’s game in Rifle.

The purpose for the hunter orange and camouflage outfits was to go bear hunting Rifle Bears that is.

Once they suited up in their actual uniforms, the Bulldogs found out early it was not going to be easy to bring home a bear, as the Bears ran up 21 points in the first half and eventually the No. 1 team in 3A won the game 21-10.

“Rifle did a good job the first half coming up with big plays on third downs,” said head coach Kip Hafey. “They were everything we expected the first half.”

The Bears came out with a smash-mouth approach on offense and put 21 points on the board in the first 24 minutes, with scoring drives of 12, 9 and 8 plays.

“It’s been our style of play all year to go out and grab four or five yards a carry,” said Rifle head coach Darrell Gorham. “In the first half, we were in pretty good shape with playing how we were capable.”

While the Bulldogs may have not come home with any bear hides, a second half in which they shut out the state’s top offense and outscored the Bears 7-0 did allow them to bring back confidence for the rest of the season.

“We outplayed the best team in the state the second half,” Hafey said. “No one has done that this season and that has to feel good and get us ready for the remainder of league play.”

The second-half turnaround may have started before the Bulldogs left the locker room when it started to rain. The wet conditions made the ball resemble a greased pig and fumbles were the story in the last half of the game.

On the first play of the half, the Bulldogs kicked an on-side kick that bounced off of a Rifle player into the hands of junior Cody Palmer. The fumble on the initial play of the third quarter began what resembled more of a tennis match than a football game as the ball bounced back and forth between teams. In the 12 minutes of the quarter, there were eight fumbles, seven of which resulted in turnovers four for Rifle, three for Moffat County.

In between the fumbles, the MCHS defense held the Bears on fourth down twice when they were inside the 20-yard line.

“Our defense play pumped up and spirited in the second half,” said defensive coordinator Lance Scranton. “The first half when I went out to the huddle they just all stared at me, but the second half they we’re hitting hard and making the plays.”

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Bulldog offense was able to string together a scoring drive. The play that saved the drive was a 17-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Sanchez to Joel Browning on third down, which set up a 2-yard run by Bastow into the end zone.

Down 21-10, the Bulldog defense forced another turnover with 6 minutes remaining in the game but Sanchez threw an interception during the next series and the Bulldogs’ comeback chances were stifled by a lack of time.

“We keep opening the door to teams that we’re better than,” Gorham said. “One of these days, if the kids don’t play like they’re capable, we’re going to be beaten.”

The Bulldog defense blitzed someone almost every play in the second half and the flying linebackers or secondary helped shut down Tony Weiss, the state’s leading rusher. Coming into the game, Weiss was averaging more than 11 yards a carry and 190 yards a game. He finished the night with 129 yards, a 5-yard per carry average and, according to Hafey, probably some bumps and bruises.

“I guarantee that we hit them harder than they’ve been hit this season,” he said. “They’ll remember us in the morning.”

Gorham said he recognized the blitz and wished he could have thrown more but the conditions wouldn’t allow the passes.

Scranton agreed that the Bears could have been affective with the pass.

“The pass was there for them the second half but they didn’t throw,” he said. “So we were able to take advantage of their one-dimensional attack.”

The game was dominated by the defenses with 13 total turnovers and both teams were held below their season averages Rifle 36 ppg, Moffat County 21 ppg, but Hafey said he thinks the Bulldogs took more away from the game.

“We might not have brought home a bear but we wounded it,” he said. “This game was a good building block for our team.”


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