Bears for life: Former coaches proud of Rifle’s tradition

AURORA — Call it a fraternity, a brotherhood if you will.

It seems as if you are, at any time in your career, a Rifle High School football coach, you’re a Bear for life.

Former Rifle football coaches crowded the visitors’ sideline Saturday at Legacy Stadium in support of Damon Wells and his Rifle team’s quest for the Class 3A state title.

Even heavy numbers of former Rifle coaches couldn’t quite coax the Bears past Silver Creek, but that hardly dampened the spirit of the Rifle sideline.

“I don’t know a lot of the kids, but it’s still the name — Rifle,” said former Bears head coach Darrel Gorham, who led Rifle to its state championship in 2004.

Since that time, Gorham has moved on to take the reins at Highlands Ranch and helped the Falcons become competitive in the Class 5A ranks.

For Gorham, Saturday was like old home week.

“I got a chance to see former players (from that 2004 team),” he said. “They’re here; they’ve got their state championship rings on.”

Since Gorham moved to the Front Range, he’s kept in close contact with another of his former assistants, Chris Cline, who recently completed his 13th season at Elizabeth, a reign that included the 2010 Class 3A state championship.

“It’s a close-knit group,” Cline said of the Bears’ coaching legacy.

More important, said Cline, “What we did at Rifle we do at other places. It’s just fun to see how many Rifle kids you see coaching elsewhere.”

Or, for that matter, back in Rifle. Former player Anthony Alfini is a current Rifle assistant. His older brother Alfonso, who was an assistant under Wells for four seasons, is currently working on his doctorate degree at the University of Maryland.

But having spent the summer working with the current Rifle players in the weight room, he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to catch a plane back to Colorado to watch the state title game.

“It’s pretty special,” he said of the bond between former Rifle coaches.

Alfonso Alfini, who after a year at Valparaiso returned to Colorado to finish his football career at then-Mesa State College, said it’s a feeling that permeates throughout the community.

“It’s sort of this blue-collar mentality,” Alfini said. “The parents work in, like, the oil fields. There’s not a whole lot going on in Rifle and football’s what brings it together.”

That was evident in the gate, with Rifle’s fans far outnumbering those of Silver Creek.

Rifle Principal Todd Ellis, himself a 17-year Rifle football assistant, smiled as he saw the former coaches offering their support.

“We’ve got some special memories,” he said of his days coaching with Gorham, Cline and Wells. “We have so much respect for each other.”

That’s why, when not rooting for their own teams, they root for those of their former coaching bretheren.

From Ellis’ standpoint, “We’re still teammates.”


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