Vail Valley preps: Rifle outlasts Battle Mountain in 47-27 marathon
EDWARDS, Colorado – Football or basketball?
Friday night’s football game had all the momentum swings of a game played in February on hardwood when Rifle met up with Battle Mountain on Friday night in Edwards.
The Bears went up 21-0 and seemed like they were cruising to an easy win. The Huskies responded with 21 straight points of their own to tie it at the half before Rifle restored order on its way to a 47-27 win.
“We went back to what we were doing. We kind of fell mentally behind,” said Rifle running back James Martinez, who scored five touchdowns for the Bears. “The coaches told us that we weren’t changing anything at the half. We just lost sight of what we needed to do. We came out after the half and executed.”
“We just used a good mix of inside and outside runs trying to keep them off balance,” Bears coach Ryan Sulkowski said. “The way Joe Burgess, Ty Leonard and James Martinez ran – they ran with a mission and a purpose today. You ride the horses.”
Rifle was seemingly riding to an easy win in the first quarter. Martinez trotted 27 yards for a touchdown with 9:05 left in the first quarter. He had a 1-yarder later in the period. Leonard ripped off a 72-yard burst, and the Bears were rolling.
Then Battle Mountain’s Jon Simpson kick-started his team with an 87-yard kickoff return, and the Huskies started their best quarter of football this season.
“That was all Jon Simpson,” Huskies coach David Joyce said. “He can’t do anything without his blockers, but when Jon had that kickoff return, we kind of had that spark. We kind of snuck one in with the onside kick, and we got it. We just played inspired football.”
Battle Mountain recovered the ensuing onside kick. Two plays later, Simpson rumbled 31 yards for the end zone. Jake Engle’s pitch to Parke Robbins for the two-point conversion closed the gap to 21-14.
Whatever the Huskies offense caught, the defense did, too. In a very strange game, Battle Mountain’s defense was absolutely superb in the second quarter and just about as dreadful in the other three periods. The Huskies forced two three-and-outs, and a 57-yard dash from Robbins set up Battle Mountain’s offense again. Engle called his own number, and the Huskies and Bears went into the locker room tied at 21.
“It wasn’t about making adjustments. Battle Mountain just capitalized,” Sulkowski said. “Give them credit. They capitalized on mistakes we made, and those guys didn’t have any quit. It wasn’t about adjustments. It was about us eliminating mistakes.”
Martinez flew 55 yards for a score to start the second half.
“Coming off the ball every time, my line was blowing holes that you could drive a semi through,” he said. “It’s easy as a running back when you have holes that big.”
Battle Mountain answered with a 39-yarder from Simpson. From there, it was all Rifle with an assist from some poor Huskies tackling.
“We’re going to work on our tackling,” Joyce said. “There were spots when we tackled really well, and then there were spots and we got out in space, and they had a little more speed than us, and we’re young. We need guys to drop their butt and make a tackle.”
Martinez rolled in from 36 yards out, and Leonard finished it off with a 14-yard run.
Rifle (3-5, 2-4) is at Palisade on Thursday. Meanwhile, Battle Mountain (1-6, 0-5) heads down to Gypsum to face Eagle Valley on Friday. The Devils got their first win of the year Friday at Cortez, 34-22.
“They’d better buckle up. We’d better buckle up,” Joyce said. “It’s going to be hell’s bells.”
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