Rifle Bears proud of historic season despite loss to Silver Creek

Rifle head coach Damon Wells talks to his team Saturday after the Bears’ loss to Silver Creek in the Class 3A state championship game at Legacy Stadium in Aurora. Wells was proud of the Bears’ memorable season. “We’ve loved them to death, and they’ll always be part of the program,” Well said of this year’s team.

Rifle head coach Damon Wells pats Isaac Rider on the helmet Saturday after the Bears’ loss to Silver Creek in the Class 3A state championship game.

Silver Creek wide receiver Trey Fleming makes a great catch for a touchdown Saturday over Rifle’s Kellin Leigh to seal the victory for the Raptors in the Class 3A state championship game in Aurora.

The Rifle defense tackles Sliver Creek wide receiver Brock Ricks for a loss on Saturday during the Bears’ 32-15 loss to the Raptors in the Class 3A state championship game at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.

Rifle wide receiver Aaron Wagler makes a long catch on the first play of offense during the Bears’ loss in the Class 3A title game.

After the Rifle loss to Silver Creek in the 3A Championship game.

AURORA — As the sun threw a cool shadow across Legacy Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Ryan Moeller found a buffer in the pain.

With a hint of a smile and seven yellow-and-blue flowers in hand, Moeller, standing on the track in shorts and a sweater, wearing Nikes with no socks, hugged his mother, shook hands with friends. The flowers were from 6-year-old Breauna Sigmon, a fan of Moeller’s. She said she gave them to the running back because “he’s part of the family.”

Always will be.

Even after No. 10 seed Silver Creek defeated the No. 1 Bears 32-15 to win the Class 3A state football title. When Moeller was a freshman, during a season Rifle coach Damon Wells called “a dark time,” the Bears were 4-6.

Four years later, a talented group of Rifle seniors leaves, having won 24 of 26 games.

Their final 48 minutes of football? Silver Creek quarterback Ben Sjobakken, in the Raptors’ spread offense, had three touchdown passes and completed 18 of 26 passes for 197 yards. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Trey Fleming with 3 minutes remaining doused a brief Rifle comeback. But it’s 48 minutes.

A wink in four years.

“There’s no way this class can be defined by 48 minutes,” Wells said. “They worked for four years and there’s no way in the world we’re going to look at our kids and say that this is who they are after 48 minutes. We’ve loved them to death, and they’ll always be part of the program.”

A 6-year-old understood the same. Ryan Moeller’s mother, Debbie Anne Moeller, said Breauna loved Moeller throughout high school. Loved him long before Saturday, when Moeller rushed for 137 yards on 27 carries and moved into fifth place on the state’s all-time, all-classification list for season rushing yards with 2,994.

Moeller passed Fort Morgan’s Dusty Quick, who rushed for 2,943 yards in 2001.

But Breauna hardly knew all that.

Moeller’s smile and handful of flowers betrayed his emotions.

“It’s definitely not a good feeling that we lost,” he said.

Rifle trailed 7-0 in the first quarter, the first time the Bears (13-1) had been behind all season. But don’t think the Bears lost because they were stunned by the deficit, Wells said. Remember four years ago?

“We haven’t been behind this season,” Wells said, “but we’ve been behind plenty.”

Rifle moved the football with wing back Kellen Leigh rushing for 119 yards on 14 carries. But Moeller had only two rushes of more than 10 yards; Leigh had four. Neither had a rush of more than 20 yards.

Maybe because Silver Creek coach Mike Apodaca noticed something in particular about Moeller.

“We talked this week about how you’ve got to rally to the football,” Apodaca said, “because anytime you thought he was tackled, and you just watched, that’s when he broke it.”

Silver Creek (12-2) preferred Moeller pass the ball. Unfortunately for Rifle, he did. Early in the fourth quarter, Moeller scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to bring Rifle to within 26-15, and Silver Creek kicker Ryan Charles, who had hit field goals of 50 and 43 yards, finally missed, this time from 43 yards.

Rifle ball. The Bears had driven to near midfield when Moeller took a lateral pass, then eased his stride and hitched his arm to pass. But three Raptors cornerbacks, apparently not fooled by the threat of a Moeller run, were in the area of the pass. One of them, Ross Fitzgerald, intercepted the ball and helped squash a Rifle rally.

Three minutes later, Fleming was in the end zone and Silver Creek was up 32-15.

About 15 minutes after the final horn, Moeller exited his locker room, spoke to friends, took those flowers from the 6-year-old and wore a slight smile for them all.

He’d scored 50 touchdowns his senior season, led the Bears to the final game. And he walked straight to his mother.

“It was nice to get the first hug,” Debbie Anne Moeller said. “He was good to his mother.”

Tweet holds true

Silver Creek linebacker Andre Apodaca wrote the tweet a week ago that was re-tweeted and spread among many of the state’s media, high school players, coaches and fans.

Saturday, Apodaca, whose Raptors held Rifle to a season-low 15 points, was able to back up his tweet that read: “Their time is done; it’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great football team Rifle has. S(****) em. THIS is our time.”

Apodaca said he didn’t intend to offend anybody with his tweet, which he thought would only reach his Twitter followers. “Then a guy from 9NEWS re-tweeted it and it went out to the whole world, so I was like, whatever, if that’s what’s going to motivate them ... “

But he said he felt as though Silver Creek, a No. 10 seed, was overshadowed by talk of Rifle and its high-powered offense.

“I think (Rifle) was just surprised that we were so good on both offense and defense,” Apodaca said, “that we were dedicated to moving the ball.”


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