Vail Valley preps: Rifle roars back for win
EDWARDS – Friday night’s Rifle-Battle Mountain football game was either a stirring, amazing comeback or one of the biggest collapses since the financial world imploded a few years back.
Perhaps it was a little of both, but Rifle coach Damon Wells summed it up well.
“I know it might sound funny because we were on the good side of this, but it was a good high school football game,” Wells said.
Battle Mountain was entertaining thoughts of its first Homecoming win since 2000. It led Rifle 19-6 at the half, only to see the Bears storm back for 27-19 win.
“We came out and ran the option like we had wanted to. Defense played great,” an understandably frustrated Huskies coach David Joyce said. “We just didn’t come out in the second half with any kind of intensity. We controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half and then they came out in the second half. I don’t know.”
There will be a lot of soul-searching and questions this week in Edwards because Battle Mountain (1-3) played a fantastic first half.
Both teams got their first scores off turnovers. The Huskies Geoff LeDon recovered a bad Rifle punt snap and the Huskies needed just two plays for a 7-0 lead behind 1-yard Reeve Sanders run.
The Huskies fumbled on their 5, giving Rifle quarterback Keaton Deere and easy 3-yard scamper. Rifle missed the PAT.
Battle Mountain got the lead when Jeff Fuller recovered a Rifle fumble on the Bears’ 22. The Huskies converted on that opportunity, capped by a 10-yard scoring run by Sanders for a 13-6 advantage.
The Huskies’ new option offense looked superb late in the second quarter with a 91-yard march with lots of Sanders and Chris Libertini. Sanders scored his third touchdown of the half with 1:05 left in the second quarter for a 19-6 Battle Mountain lead.
“We just loved our kids because they’re such a young group,” Wells said of his halftime talk. “I think the young card doesn’t win many games. So we loved on them. Credit to Battle Mountain, they had their kids prepared very well. Their kids played well.”
Rifle ate up six minutes of the second half with a scoring drive, primarily fueled by running back Ryan Moeller, who plowed his was though the Huskies defense. Deere finished the drive, cutting the Bears’ deficit to 19-12.
Then things got a little goofy. The Huskies responded with a drive from their 37 to Rifle’s doorstep. With the ball on the Bears’ 1, Battle Mountain center Timmy Licciardi and Sanders miscommunicated on the snap. The ensuing 5-yard procedure penalty led to a field goal attempt.
It was actually a fake with Libertini running an end-around. Rifle sniffed it out with Moeller making the tackle.
“It was a designed fake,” Joyce said. “Cody (Hervert) sprained his ankle in the first half. It was a his kicking foot. He was a little ginger on it. We were having protection issues, so I just thought from left hash that close, it would be just as good of a bet with the fake. We were just shoe string from walking it in, if (Moeller) hadn’t gotten him.”
Instead of having a two-possession lead, the Huskies faced a fired up Rifle offense. The Bears got to their 28 on a roughing-the-passer penalty. They got another 22 yards on a pass from Deere to Austin Booth, except that Booth tipped it and it landed right in the arms of teammate Cody Chick. At midefield, Moeller rambled 25 yards and Deere called his own number for another 25. When Rifle’s Taylor Webb ran in the two-point conversion, the Bears had a 20-19 lead.
The back-breaker came after the Huskies went three-and-out. Kyle Shaw blocked the punt and Moeller came up with recovery.
“We have to have that attitude to be successful at Rifle High School,” Wells said. “We try to live by the mantra of ‘Rifle Tough,’ and Ryan Moeller fits that, and a lot of our kids do too.”
The Bears took over on the Huskies’ 26. Deere capped the drive with a 10 yard run up the middle. Battle Mountain tried a last-gasp drive, getting to the Bears’ 32 before Joyce had Eric Weiss try to fire a bomb that was picked by Webb.
“We really couldn’t have done it without all our guys doing their assignments,” Moeller said. “We had a rough first half, but we fixed it up. We couldn’t have done it without everybody.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.