Second-half surge lifts Rifle past Olathe
RIFLE — Olathe High School’s usually potent rushing attack was turned away early and often Friday night. The Rifle Bears made sure to take advantage of nearly all of their second-half chances.
Ryan Moeller rushed for one touchdown and 116 of his 144 yards in the second half for the Bears, who forced five turnovers and limited Class 2A’s fifth-ranked team to only 102 yards on the ground in their 16-0 nonleague victory at Bears Stadium.
“I don’t think there’s any silver bullet or anything that made a difference,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “I think our defensive staff (got) our kids ready to play, and our kids responded. I think that’s a huge component. I think people talk about scheme too much, but scheme doesn’t matter if you can’t motivate your kids. Our staff did that tonight.”
The Bears (3-0) followed through all night on defense, then took control on offense with a pair of methodical scoring drives that forced the run-heavy offense of the Pirates (1-2) to play catch-up. Rifle outgained Olathe only 262-223 for the game but by a lopsided 156-67 in the second half.
“We have a lot of guys playing both ways, and right in the second half is when we start hitting the cramping bug,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said. “We have to get in better shape. And we start (2A Western Slope Conference) play next week, so we’ve got to get there in a hurry.”
Pirates senior quarterback Ben Kaylor finished 7 of 16 passing for 121 yards with three interceptions, Taylor Carlson had three catches for 62 yards and Willy Corey had 43 yards on nine carries to pace the Pirates. Brandon Kittle added 64 yards on 14 carries for Rifle, which limited Olathe to only nine offensive plays in the third quarter.
“They were really, really physical with us in the first half,” Moeller said. “Our line really stepped up there right when we needed it to.”
After Rifle forced Olathe’s second three-and-out offensive series of the third quarter, the Bears capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with Moeller’s 14-yard run. It gave the Bears a 7-0 lead with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the third quarter after Marco Gutierrez’s point-after kick.
Taylor Webb picked off a pass on Olathe’s next drive, and his 42-yard return, along with a 15-yard facemask penalty, set up Gutierrez’s 26-yard field goal. After Rifle forced another punt, Webb’s 4-yard TD run with 3:07 left to play capped a 13-play, 63-yard drive by the Bears.
Olathe had plenty of chances early on. Kaylor hit Corey for a 19-yard pass to the Rifle 31, but Corey fumbled and Rifle recovered was recovered to end the threat. Later in the half, Kaylor’s 25-yard strike to Taylor Carlson on a fourth-and-14 set the Pirates up with a first-and-goal at the Rifle 1. But the Bears forced another fumble and recovered the ball at their own 3 with 2:44 remaining before halftime.
“I think right now we’re still trying to find our identity,” Corn said. “We have good kids who are working hard, and if we keep doing what we’re doing when it comes to those situations, we can get those down the road.”