Bears fall short in 3A playoffs

COLORADO SPRINGS — Layton Stutsman and Kellin Leigh were a dynamic duo for most of Rifle High School’s Class 3A football playoff game Saturday against Coronado.

When the No. 11 Bears needed a big play, the junior quarterback and senior running back were money, connecting on touchdown scores of 39 and 51 yards and combining for 128 yards through the air.

Yet, in the end, a few missed opportunities between the two, along with three Rifle turnovers, proved costly as the Bears were eliminated from postseason play in a 34-31 loss to No. 6 Coronado on the road at Garry Berry Stadium.

Stutsman’s fourth-down pass with 25 seconds remaining, and Rifle (8-3) trailing 28-24, was intercepted by Zeb Foster, and the Bears then watched the Coronado linebacker race 40 yards down the visiting team’s sideline for a touchdown to seal their fate in front of a raucous Coronado home crowd.

“They were physical, and I think we matched them really well,” said Stutsman, who connected with Leigh for a 51-yard score with 5.6 seconds remaining. “But it just came down to little things.”

Foster, who had 17 tackles, credited Rifle for being a tenacious team.

“Those are some tough boys over there on the West Slope,” he said. “We knew they would be tough. They are all physical.”

Rifle failed to capitalize from the Coronado 32-yard line with 10 minutes remaining when Stutsman threw a beautiful ball on second down to Leigh in double coverage that went just off his fingertips in the end zone.

Stutsman was then drilled on third down by Corbin Bender and fumbled the ball over to Coronado defensive end Melvin Harvy with Rifle holding a 24-21 advantage.

Four plays later, Coronado’s Austin Micci stiff-armed two Rifle defenders on a left-side stretch play, then slipped through another tackler’s arms and galloped 40 yards to the end zone to give the Cougars a 28-24 lead with 8:43 to go.

Micci had a 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and finished with 225 yards on 25 carries to lift the Coronado offense, which was without leading rusher Isaah Duvall.

Stutsman finished 5 for 12 for a season-high 146 yards passing.

Rifle coach Damon Wells said the Bears, who entered the game averaging more than 365 yards per game on the ground, were prepared to throw the ball if Coronado stacked the box. For most of the second half that was the case, and the Cougars dared Stutsman to try to beat them while holding Rifle to 132 yards on the ground.

“If they are going to line up without a safety, then we’re going to throw it where he should be,” Wells said. “We had success with it twice, almost three times.”

Rifle led 14-0 lead after the first quarter and held a 17-14 lead at the half.

Coronado got its first state playoff victory since 1991 and will face No. 3 Roosevelt in the second round.

Coronado (10-1) is a Class 4A-sized school playing down at the 3A level after qualifying to move down by going 2-38 in the four seasons prior to the switch.


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