Offense has been the calling card this season for the Rifle High School football team.
The Bears (9-0) rolled through the regular season and earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A playoffs behind an offensive attack that scored fewer than 31 points only once all season — a 21-9 win at Basalt on Oct. 25.
Even against its toughest opposition all season, Delta's dominant defense, the Bears' offense was humming in a 47-29 home win on Oct. 11.
Rifle's biggest strength is running the football.
Senior Levi Warfel has carried the ball 153 times for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. Fellow seniors Kenny Tlaxcala and Talon Cordova have added 627 yards and six scores and 339 yards and three TDs, respectively. Quarterback Holden Stutsman, another senior, is also a running threat, rushing for 183 yards and seven touchdowns.
When the Bears decide to go to the air, it often produces strong results.
Stutsman has thrown 45 passes this season, an average of five per game, and has completed 26 of them. Those 26 completions have gone for 422 yards, an average gain of 16.2 yards.
Even better, 10 of his 26 completions have gone for touchdowns and he has only thrown one interception all season.
Stutsman's top target is Warfel, who leads the Bears in receptions (9), yards (132) and touchdown catches (4).
The Bears open postseason play at 1 p.m. on Saturday at home against 16th-seeded Englewood (7-2). The Pirates are more pass-happy, as quarterback Mason Robertson has thrown for 1,449 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Englewood's top rusher, Yakez Daughtry, has half of Warfel's production, running for 753 yards and eight touchdowns.
Pagosa Springs at Delta
The Panthers finished 8-1 with their loss at Rifle the lone blemish on an otherwise remarkable regular-season campaign.
Delta allowed 47 points in its loss to the Bears. However, in its other eight games, the defense allowed 28 combined points, an average of 3.5 per game, with five shutouts. They didn't allow a single point until a trip to Aspen on Oct. 4.
That defensive dominance carried Delta to the No. 4 seed in the 2A playoffs. The Panthers host Pagosa Springs at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Delta's offense runs through junior quarterback Nolan Bynum, who threw for 1,688 yards with 25 touchdowns and two interceptions. Bynum also has rushed for six scores to complement lead back Kula Moo, who has 325 yards rushing and 5 TDs.
Bynum's favorite target is senior Hunter Hughes, who has 622 yards receiving and is averaging 20.1 yards per catch. Hughes has caught 12 of Bynum's 25 TD tosses. Seniors Nate Workman (473 yards, 7 TDs), Gauge Lockhart 348 yards, 3 TDs) and Skyler Kraai (263 yards, 3 TDs) give Bynum plenty of options in the passing game.
The Pirates' offense struggled at times this season, particularly in nonconference play. They scored 14 points per game in nonconference play compared to 42.3 points per game against conference foes.
Pagosa Springs' starting quarterback, Grant Aucoin, has completed 35 of 77 passes for 693 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Senior running back Paden Bailey has been the team's offensive catalyst, running for 1,031 yards and seven scores. The biggest challenge for Delta's defense could be covering receiver Mitch Lewis, who has hauled in 18 passes for 419 yards and six touchdowns. If Lewis is contained, Pagosa Springs' offense could be limited to early season form.
BUENA VISTA AT MEEKER
Since a 42-28 home loss to Limon in late September, few teams in 1A have been as strong as Meeker.
The fourth-seeded Cowboys (8-1) host No. 13 Buena Vista at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Meeker enters the postseason on a five-game winning streak, winning by an average score of 39-9.
Junior quarterback Ryan Phelan has been prolific, completing 145 of 224 passes for 2,394 yards (266 per game) with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. Phelan's average completion goes for 16.5 yards.
Meeker also averages 176.6 yards rushing per game. Jeremy Woodward has been Meeker's top running back, running for 718 yards and six touchdowns. Phelan has also been a force on the ground, running for 224 yards and nine scores during the regular season.
The Demons (6-3) haven't been as prolific on offense. Buena Vista has only scored more than 30 points twice all season and, in its past four games, has been outscored 123-54. Of those 54 points, 27 came in a win over 3-6 Monte Vista last week.
HOTCHKISS AT HIGHLAND
Hotchkiss (7-2) began and finished the season with losses to Meeker, and was outscored a combined 70-33 in the two meetings.
Against all other opponents, however, 2019 was great for the Bulldogs, who won each game by an average score of 30-4.
The defense has been the main reason for the Bulldogs' success, but senior running back Jace Peebles is one of the most productive players in the region, running for 1,606 yards (178.4 per game) and 15 touchdowns. On 202 carries, he averages exactly 8 yards per touch.
Ninth-seeded Hotchkiss travels to Ault to face No. 8 Highland (6-3) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Huskies enter the playoffs on a roll, winning four of five conference games by a combined score of 192-34. Their lone blemish? A 35-14 loss to the No. 1 seed, unbeaten Strasburg, Hotchkiss' likely second-round opponent should the Bulldogs defeat Highland.