Rifle’s ‘D’ shuts out Panthers

DELTA — Ryan Moeller rushed for more than 200 yards for the sixth time this season, but it was the top-ranked Rifle High School football team’s defense that shined.

The Bears’ defense shut out No. 9 Delta 21-0 on Friday night at Panther Stadium.

“We try really hard to keep them out of the end zone,” sophomore linebacker Austin Shepherd said. “I think it’s funny how Moeller keeps getting credit for all his runs, but the defense has a shutout every week. We take a lot of pride in our defense.”

Moeller had 27 carries for 202 yards and one touchdown, and the defense recorded its fifth shutout of the season.

“Delta was a really good team,” Rifle defensive coordinator Anthony Alfini said. “They knocked off Palisade last week, so we knew they were for real. We caught some breaks. I think our kids run well to the football. They did a great job with the plan. They did exactly what we asked them to do.”

Rifle (9-0, 7-0 Western Slope Conference) limited the Panthers (6-3, 5-2 WSC) to 231 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers.

Delta tried to surprise the Bears, opting to throw the ball more. Delta quarterback Mitchel Whiteside completed 14 of 25 passes for 138 yards with one interception. Chris Black caught nine passes for 92 yards.

“That was kind of surprising,” Alfini said. “We thought they were going to run it more, but they came out passing the ball.

“Delta came out and played really well. Luckily, we held on for the shutout.”

The Panthers took the first possession of the game and moved into Rifle territory before Aaron Wagler intercepted Whiteside.

Rifle used Wagler’s momentum-changing pick to take a 7-0 lead on Moeller’s two-yard run late in the first quarter.

Delta put together a 12-play drive, with Whiteside completing four consecutive passes to three receivers, setting up a first-and-goal at the five-yard line. The Panthers, though, were whistled twice for movement before the ball was snapped. They faced fourth and goal at the 16 and missed a 
32-yard field goal attempt.

The Bears then went 70 yards, all on the ground, with runs by Moeller, Isaac Rider and Kellin Leigh to the Delta 10. Instead of staying with the run, Rifle threw a little surprise at Delta. Quarterback Adam Rice completed a 10-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Wagler with 26 seconds left for a 14-0 halftime lead. Rice completed one of three passes and had a second completion called back on a penalty.

“I thought we missed a couple opportunities offensively,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “If we can punch it in from the 5, it’s 7-7. Then, who knows? Then they drive and score with 26 seconds left in the half, and a 14-point deficit against them is pretty (tough).”

The Bears opened the third quarter with a 13-play drive, all on the ground. Rice punched the ball into the end zone from one yard out.

Delta moved deep into Rifle territory again, threatening to avoid the shutout, but fumbled. Shepherd recovered.

“I wasn’t going to give up that ball if my life depended on it,” Shepherd said.


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