Run game lifts Rifle to victory
RIFLE — Close games are something the Rifle High School football team has gotten used to the past three weeks. The end result is something the Bears have been accustomed to all season.
Fourth-seeded and unbeaten Rifle took control early with its powerful running game, then stuffed the Roosevelt Rough Riders’ equally powerful running game down the stretch of their 14-7 victory in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Saturday afternoon at Bears Stadium.
“Reflecting on that, there was a span where we played in a lot of games that weren’t close,” said Rifle coach Damon Wells, whose team has won three consecutive games by margins of seven or less. “I think we kind of got used to that. So now we’ve played in quite a few of these … and it’s a good time when you win ‘em.”
No doubt, the Bears (11-0) will have a chance to extend those good times even further.
They’ll host Windsor (10-1), a 41-14 first-round winner over Holy Family, in the second round of the state playoffs.
“This feels great,” said Rifle running back Brandon Kittle, who rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. “I never would have thought at the beginning of the season that we’d make it this far. It’s amazing.”
Ryan Moeller finished with a game-high 172 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, helping the Bears finish with 302 rushing yards. Kittle’s 13-yard scamper on the Bears’ opening drive, coupled with Moeller’s 28-yard jaunt up the gut in the second quarter, put Rifle in control early on.
Roosevelt, however, made it a one-possession game early in the fourth quarter and twice had opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final seven minutes. But the Bears’ defense stood firm, only once allowing the Rough Riders past midfield.
“Their speed up front really helped them control the line of scrimmage and kept us from getting our running game going,” said Roosevelt coach Noland Eastin, whose team averaged close to 41 points per game during the regular season.
“They were showing us things up front, but then they were moving around a lot at the line of scrimmage that really took some things away.”
Marcus Holguin had 15 carries for 90 yards to pace Roosevelt (8-3). All but 29 of those yards, however, came in the fourth quarter. He had 56 yards on the Riders’ eight-play, 71-yard march, with Juan Sanchez scoring from the 1 with 10 minutes left, cutting Rifle’s lead to 14-7.
Roosevelt recovered a fumble by Moeller on its own 6 on Rifle’s next possession but went three-and-out. The Rough Riders got the ball back on their own 17 with 2:53 left.
On fourth-and-5 from the Riders’ 48, Holguin was stuffed at Rifle’s 49 with 45.9 seconds remaining, and the celebration began.
“We get the lead and, here lately, we tend to coast,” Kittle said. “You can’t do that at this time of year. We’ve got to get that fixed next week.”
Jaime Rodriguez ran for 305 yards and four touchdowns as second-seeded Hotchkiss rolled to a 49-21 quarterfinal victory over Resurrection Christian at Loveland Sports Park.
The Bulldogs (11-0) rushed for 432 yards, getting another 104 from Jacobe Galley.
After Resurrection Christian’s Taylor Dewald scored on a 50-yard run, Rodriguez one-upped him, breaking off a 91-yard touchdown run.
Resurrection Christian took a 21-7 halftime lead on a pair of touchdown passes by Josh Mondt, and then the Bulldogs regrouped.
Rodriguez scored on runs of 6 and 9 yards in the third quarter to tie the game at 21-21, and in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs (11-0) put it away, scoring four touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
Tell Hawk caught a 38-yard touchdown pass, Russ Evans intercepted a pass and ran it in from 14 yards out and Rodriguez ran in a two-point conversion.
Quarterback Braeden Horton scored from the 6 and Rodriguez made sure to send the Bulldogs into the state semifinals with a 72-yard run.
Hotchkiss lost the coin flip to host the semifinals, so the Bulldogs will pack the bus this week for a 299-mile drive to Wiggins, which is west of Fort Morgan.