Bears run over ‘Dogs
Moeller leads ground attack as top-ranked Rifle routs No. 2 Palisade
It’s instinct. A safety dives low, and ahead is nothing but green turf and white lines. You’re Rifle High School’s Ryan Moeller, and you’re one of the state’s best hurdlers.
Then, on the first play after halftime, sprint 78 yards for a touchdown.
Hello, second half. See you, Moeller. And thanks for coming, No. 1-ranked Rifle, which defeated No. 2 Palisade 31-3 on Thursday night at Stocker Stadium.
Moeller finished with 21 carries for 267 yards and two long touchdowns. And one hurdle.
“It’s instinctive, man,” Moeller said. “You don’t really think about it. It’s something I shouldn’t do. It’s real risky. It was scary — my heart was racing.”
Rifle (6-0, 5-0 3A Western Slope Conference) finished with 380 yards rushing, including 46 by Isaac Rider and 45 by Kellin Leigh, who added two touchdowns.
Rifle quarterback Adam Rice had 115 yards passing and a prime view of Moeller’s hurdle over Palisade safety Dalton Hannigan.
“It was kind of scary how he jumped in the air — it’s kind of dangerous,” Webb said. “Like, oh, no, is he going to get hit? Then lands, kind of stumbles a bit. And when he’s behind everyone, you know he’s gone.”
Palisade (5-1, 3-1) trailed 17-3 at halftime, when Moeller already had nine carries for 139 yards, including 132 of them in the first quarter. Many times, he nimbly stepped to the left or the right to avoid leg tackles, or he bulled forward for extra yards. On his final run of the first quarter, Moeller hit the left side of Palisade’s defense and was hardly touched en route to a 74-yard touchdown run that put Rifle ahead 17-0.
Yet, one of Moeller’s best runs may have been a seven-yarder in the third quarter. In the backfield, he sidestepped two defenders who swiped at his legs, burst forward, and then, parallel to the ground — maybe a foot off the turf — carried a linebacker about five yards.
What did Moeller’s performance mean to colleges that have not offered Moeller a scholarship (only Colorado Mesa University has)?
“I don’t know,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “It’s not even for me to answer anymore. All I know is we couldn’t be happier that Jay and Debbie Anne Moeller at one time decided to move into the Rifle attendance area, and we’re glad he plays for us.”
The Bulldogs finally slowed Rifle’s offense in the second quarter, and a pair of sacks were the biggest plays. Rifle had just moved into Palisade territory when, on second down, Bulldogs linebacker Jack Millard sacked Rice for an eight-yard loss. Two plays later, on a fourth-and 5, Palisade linebacker Zach Marengo blitzed up the middle and sacked Rice or a 10-yard loss.
Palisade started slowly on offense. Quarterback Luke McLean (40 yards rushing) threw an interception on Palisade’s opening series, which Rifle turned into a Marco Gutierrez 31-yard field goal.
Even a Palisade punt to the Rifle one-yard line couldn’t slow the Bears in the first quarter. Leigh polished off a 99-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run as Rifle took a 10-0 lead.
“Oh, they’re tough,” Moeller said of Palisade. “A real physical, well-coached team.
“Everyone (for Rifle) just got the job done. Otherwise, the score would probably be flipped around if we hadn’t done our jobs, if we’d have come in here too cocky.”