No. 1 Rifle too much for Devils
Vail, CO Colorado
RIFLE – Seven more days.
That’s Rifle’s mantra as it heads into the Class 3A football playoffs. Each postseason triumph buys the Bears one more week with each other.
“We’re just going to try to take it one day at a time, one week,” Rifle senior Aaron Wagler said, “so we can try to get seven more days.”
Wagler and the Bears have certainly put themselves in a strong position to get many more days together as they cruise into the playoffs. Friday night’s 52-13 thumping of visiting Eagle Valley delivered Rifle its second consecutive 10-0 regular season. The western Garfield County school will likely be the No. 1 seed in the 16-team Class 3A bracket.
The 3A Western Slope League champion Bears attacked the perimeter with its relentless run game against the Devils, racking up 366 yards on the ground in the first half alone.
Senior running back Ryan Moeller topped the 2,000-yard rushing mark for the second straight season by erupting for 229 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. He set the tone early, busting loose for a 54-yard score on Rifle’s second offensive play.
Kellin Leigh added rushing scores from 15 and 8 yards out and Moeller coasted in for a 7-yard TD as the Bears went up 28-0 after a quarter.
“That’s a pretty powerful football team,” Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said. “We figured out why they’re ranked No. 1. I thought our kids would have played a bit better. It seemed like they really attacked our perimeter and got a lot of big plays on the outside.”
Rifle made it 52-0 by halftime with a flurry of points in the second quarter.
Moeller punched one in from 3 yards out, followed by a 39-yard field goal by Marco Gutierrez, a 1-yard TD pass from Adam Rice to Wagler and a 27-yard interception return for a score by Wagler.
Wagler credited the emotion of senior night with helping push the Bears, who are ranked No. 1 in both the Denver Post poll and in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s wild-card standings.
“There was a lot of adrenaline with senior night,” he relayed. “It was the last regular season game for our high school career. We went out playing our best.”
Jay Dostal’s 4-yard rushing score late in the third quarter gave the Devils (7-3 overall, 5-3 in the 3A WSL) their first points. Quarterback Jordan Hudspeth connected with Sam Boyd on a 13-yard passing TD just as time expired on the fourth-quarter clock to round out the final count.
Like the Bears, Eagle Valley is likely playoff-bound.
“Our kids have had a great season,” Ramunno said. “We finished up 1-8 last year. To get seven more wins is huge. The biggest turnaround I’ve ever had was plus seven, so I was hoping we could have gotten that this year, but maybe we will. I hope we can keep it going.”
Cole Nielsen collected 62 yards of offense – 23 on the ground and 39 in the receiving game – to pace the Devils.
Leigh finished with 95 yards on seven carries for Rifle, which finished up with an 8-0 league record. Brock Clark rushed for 46 yards and Isaac Rider 42. Ryan Moeller had an interception on defense.
Both teams will learn their playoff fate when CHSAA releases the Class 3A bracket on Sunday.