It just wasn't to be. A league title for the Delta Panther football team was there for the taking and Rifle's Bears were in the way.
In a game for all the marbles, Delta was left holding the bag as the Bears rolled to a convincing 52-27 3A matchup last Friday night in Rifle.
An earlier loss to Palisade High School left the Bears scrambling for redemption and playoff hopes against Delta last Friday night. Delta's big win over Palisade had Panthers' fans excited about the team's first league title since 1989 when Delta played in the old GVL conference. All they had to do was defeat the Bears and the title was theirs.
Delta started strong on its first drive of the game only to stall out inside the Bears' 20 and give the ball up on downs. All was not lost, however, as Rifle failed to score on their first drive.
Neither team was consistent in the first quarter, but the Bears managed to score the game's first touchdown on a 10-yard scamper by Javier Nunez. Eduardo Sandoval kicked the extra point, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead with just 15.4 seconds left in the first period.
A blocked punt by the Bears on a fourth-down was recovered on the Panthers' 25. On the first play, Kellin Leigh swept right end for Rifle's second touchdown of the game. Sandoval's kick made the score 14-0 Rifle with 11:34 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers moved the ball to Rifle's 2-yard line on their next possession but could not punch the ball into the end zone. Rifle took over on downs at the 2-yard line.
Fortunately for Delta, the Bears' offense moved the ball 12 yards before punting the ball away from their own 14.
Delta had good field position at the Bears' 45 following the punt. The offense sputtered and the Panthers were forced to punt the ball away from their own 46 with 1:15 left in the first half of play.
The Bears got the ball first after the intermission and cashed in on a 40-yard toss sweep by Bailey Hoffmeister. The kick by Sandoval made it 21-0 with 10:06 left in the third.
Completions to Ryan Whiteside helped the Panthers move the ball inside Rifle's 10-yard line on their next possession. Tyler Sandoval bulled in from the 6 to give the Panthers their first score of the game. The PAT failed, leaving Delta behind 21-6 with 7:36 left in the third.
Just when things were looking up for Delta, the Bears added another score to their totals to dash Delta's flickering hopes.
On Rifle's next possession from its own 20-yard line, Leigh raced 80 yards to add six more points to the Bears' lead. The extra-point kick made the score 28-6 with 7:11 left in the third quarter.
A long pass from Cade Gafford to Devin Williams moved the ball into Rifle territory at the 46. Gafford finished the 80-yard drive with a pass to Kory Mills from 15 yards out. Kole Roberts' kick gave the Panthers their 13th point.
Rifle countered with a 68-yard drive that ended in a Nunez 1-yard run with 2:22 left in the third. The PAT was good, making the score 35-13.
Rifle was able to add to their score with a 29-yard run from Leigh (his third) with 1:20 left in the third. With the extra point, Rifle owned a 42-13 lead.
Jonney Ponce, the talented sophomore running back for Delta, gave the Panthers their third score on a six-yard run. The drive began on the Delta 38 in the third quarter and ended with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter. Roberts' PAT kick failed, leaving the score at 42-19.
Rifle scored on its next possession from 87 yards away. Layton Sutsman finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 8:32 left in the game. Sandoval's kick made the score 49-19.
An onside kick returned the ball to Rifle on its own 46 for its next possession. The ploy resulted in a 30-yard field goal from Sandoval to complete the 54-yard drive and gave the Bears a 52-19 lead with 1:54 left to play.
Delta managed to salvage another score with Ponce catching a pass from Gafford to cover the final 12 yards in the scoring drive. Ponce snagged another pass from Gafford for a two-point conversion to make the final score 52-27.
The Panthers had 26 rushing plays and 41 passes in the game for 316 yards. Ryan Whiteside caught 11 passes for 159 yards and Ponce collected 53 yards on five passes. Williams had 53 yards on two passes.
Ponce's 70 yards on 24 carries led Delta's ground game.
Sandoval led Delta's defense with seven tackles, with Bodie Giron finishing with five and teammates Whiteside, Cordell Stroud, and David Brown finishing with four each.
Rifle's Leigh finished with 167 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns. Brock Clark had seven totes for 193 yards for the winners.
The Bears finished with 507 yards of offense, with Delta showing a total of 393 yards.
Delta began the weekend in first place and finished in fourth. Palisade regained the top spot with Rifle back at number two. Glenwood Springs moved ahead of Delta by virtue of its earlier season victory over the Panthers. Both teams are 5-2 in league play and 6-3 overall.
The Panthers stayed ahead of Glenwood Springs in the state standings at number 14 and the Demons sit at number 15. Palisade remains in the top five at number two and Rifle moves from 15 to number six after last weekend's play.
Delta will host the league's number six team, Steamboat Springs (3-4 and 4-5) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Palisade ends its regular season schedule against Moffat County (1-6 and 2-7) on Friday. Rifle is in Gypsum to face number five Eagle Valley (3-4 and 5-4) this Friday.blog comments powered by Disqus