Vote Moeller: Rifle coach praises back after another shutout win
Rifle coach praises back after another shutout win
RIFLE — Election season might be over, but Rifle High School football coach Damon Wells wasn’t afraid to campaign for one of his running backs Saturday afternoon at Bears Stadium.
“I think this might sound unprofessional, but I don’t care, because ultimately my allegiance is to my kid,” Wells said of senior Ryan Moeller. “For any recruiter who doesn’t come after him and doesn’t think he can play Division I football, sorry, but they’re just wrong. They’re just flat-out wrong.”
Moeller had 276 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, along with his 39-yard interception return for a touchdown, to lead the top-seeded Bears to a 42-0 victory over Erie in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
“We haven’t seen anything like him all year,” Erie coach Larry Gartrell said. “We’ve seen some good backs, for sure. But he’s fast, he’s got good balance, and he’s tough. He’s a good one.”
The victory propelled the Bears (11-0) into the Class 3A quarterfinals against Roosevelt, a 21-15 winner Saturday over Palisade in another first-round game. Game time is tentatively set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Bears Stadium. Rifle defeated Roosevelt 14-7 in the first round of last year’s state playoffs.
Rifle’s defense didn’t let up, either. The Tigers (7-4), the third-place finisher in the 3A Northern Conference, averaged 280 rushing yards per game coming into Saturday’s matchup, but they finished with just 125 rushing yards and 139 yards of total offense. The Bears’ defense, meanwhile, earned its sixth shutout of the season and third in the past four games.
Erie’s longest play from scrimmage came on a 15-yard run from B.J. Jensen, but it also came in the fourth quarter with Rifle’s second-string defense on the field and the running clock in effect.
Moeller, meanwhile, racked up 334 all-purpose yards during the game, helping Rifle amass 391 rushing yards and 428 yards of total offense.
He scored on TD runs of one, two, one and 64 yards, but his most impressive run of the day came right before his first scoring jaunt of the game.
On first-and-10 from Erie’s 42-yard-line, Moeller broke through the line of scrimmage past three potential tacklers, shook off another tackle as he bounced to the right sideline and, as he ran down the field with teammates right behind, he plowed past two more Erie defenders before he was brought down just short of the goal line.
He walked into the end zone on the next play, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead with 3 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
“A lot of it comes down to just heart and trying,” Moeller said. “If you want to give up on a play, you can quit running, and you can do that whenever you want. But it wasn’t just me who had heart, because there were other guys who kept running down the field. So that was everyone that had heart, not just me.”
When running back Isaac Rider scored his first touchdown of the season, a six-yard jaunt with 8:53 remaining, Saturday’s game became the classification’s only mercy-rule game of the day.
“They’re a good team,” Gartrell said. “You get in the playoffs and you have the mindset of ‘you never know.’
“But they’re well-coached, they play hard, and they’re good, hard-nosed kids. They’re going to go far.”