Raptors take early lead, never look back in win
AURORA — All of the momentum the Silver Creek High School football team built up on Saturday never shifted into the Rifle Bears’ favor for very long.
The Raptors used that momentum from the very beginning, scoring on the opening drive to put the top-ranked Bears in a hole for the first time this season.
It paved the way to the Raptors’ 32-15 victory over the Bears in the Class 3A state championship game, ending the longest single-season winning streak in Rifle High School football history.
“The first score of the game is always the most important,” said Silver Creek junior quarterback Ben Sjobakken, who finished 18 of 26 passing for 197 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. “Once we got on the board, we got our momentum, and the momentum stayed on our side for most of the game.”
Rifle had made a habit of leading throughout the game on its way to an undefeated regular season and a 13-0 record entering the title game.But Saturday, the team that never trailed was Silver Creek, which used its quick passing game to eat up yardage and time.
Silver Creek’s defense also forced four turnovers on a Rifle team that had only turned the ball over 12 times during the season, with two of those stopping the Bears’ momentum in its tracks.
“Turnovers are always tough to overcome, especially in a game like this against a team that good,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “We were down 11 and had a chance, but didn’t get it done. Ultimately, that’s my responsibility, and we didn’t get it done.”
Rifle ran more plays during the game (64-54), but the Raptors used long, time-consuming drives to keep the ball away from the Bears’ offense.
Rifle, which has relied on big plays all season, never got that aspect. The Bears’ longest play of the game was a 29-yard pass from Adam Rice to Aaron Wagler on their first play from scrimmage.And defensively, the Raptors forced turnovers to keep momentum.
“The whole defensive scheme they had we weren’t really prepared for. It was a lot different then what we thought we would get,” Rice said. “We made adjustments at halftime and we started to get rolling, but it ended up being too little, too late.”
The Bears did get that momentum back, pulling within 26-15 on a 2-yard touchdown run from Ryan Moeller and a two-point conversion pass from Rice to Kellin Leigh with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Rifle got a stop on defense when Charles’ 43-yard field goal sailed wide right, but a halfback pass from Moeller was intercepted by Silver Creek’s Ross Fitzgerald five plays later, and Sjobakken’s 25-yard strike to Fleming with 2:55 left to play sealed it.
“They just started getting more and more momentum, and we just kept on getting worn down,” said Moeller, who finished with 142 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in his final high school game. “But I’m not going to make any excuses. They were just better than us today.”