DELTA — The first half was a rainy, sloppy, ugly football game.
The second half was Rifle football.
With 34 unanswered points in the final two quarters and seven seconds, Rifle went on to beat Delta 34-7 on Friday night.
Rifle's first half was a disaster of penalties, bad snaps and turnovers as the game was played in a constant downpour for most of the half.
"Yeah I was concerned, I thought it would take a miracle for us to win," said Rifle coach Damon Wells.
Two key touchdowns that sucked Delta's momentum away and a steady pounding of senior running back Tanner Vines turned a close game into a rout.
With Vines battering the middle with physical runs and the Bears' defense playing its usual smothering, gang-tackling brand of football, it was a one-sided second half.
The Panthers (4-2, 1-1 Class 2A Western Slope Conference) took a 7-0 lead on a 7-yard TD pass from Nolan Bynum to Skylar Kraai early in the first quarter, but it was an errant pass that shifted the game in the third quarter.
The second half didn't start great for Rifle after Delta recovered a fumble at the 25.
That's when Carter Pressler stepped in front of a Delta receiver and was off on an 84-yard touchdown return to give the Bears the lead for good at 14-7.
Another Delta three-and-out gave the Bears the ball back at the 22. That's when the physical and potent Rifle running game took over.
The 78-yard, 12-play drive, which gave Rifle a 20-7 lead, was capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Holden Stutsman. It was Vines and an overpowering offensive line that got them down the field.
Vines, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season, carried the ball eight times for 62 yards on the drive — including a run of 16 yards when he ran over a defender. He ended the game with 282 yards on 36 carries.
"(Delta) came out to play on the first quarter and we expected that, but we know we can be a really great second-half team and we came together and played well," he said.
Rifle (6-0, 2-0 WSC) increased the lead to 28-7 on a third-and-13 draw play that Vines broke free for a 44-yard touchdown.
After an Eddie Medina interception, Vines later plowed in from the 1 for the final score.
Wells said the Bears made defensive adjustments at halftime but wouldn't get into any details.
"First of all we weren't bad defensively in the first half, but one thing we did preach to our kids is we needed to come up with some turnovers," Wells said. "I thought the interception return for the touchdown was the turning point. As impressive as the catch was, the run was even more impressive."
As much as the interception return was key for Rifle, a score with seven seconds left in the second quarter was a huge turn of momentum.
The Bears took over at the 20 with 2:33 left and moved the ball to the 20, but Brandon Butler sacked Stutsman for a 5-yard loss. Undaunted, Rifle found the end zone on its only completed pass of the game when Stutsman drilled a pass to Levi Warfel for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 at halftime.
Vines said Rifle always wants to run the football.
"Our offensive line is what does it for me, we just want to get first downs and keep moving the chains," he said.
The win keeps Rifle tied with Basalt (6-0) for the lead in the conference.