The Bears accomplished a number of important milestones with their 21 -0 defeat at Delta on Friday. The win marked 19 regular season wins in a row for Rifle dating back to a week one victory over Grand Valley in 2011. The shutout is the fifth so far this season. The Bears’ defense is surrendering less than 2 1/2 points per game on the year.
Most importantly, the victory over Delta combined with Palisade’s win over Eagle Valley gave Rifle its second consecutive Western Slope League Championship and assured the Bears of a 1st Round home playoff game. Rifle has not won back-to-back championships since 2001/2002.
Rifle is still locked in a battle with The Classical Academy Titans for the number one overall seed in the Colorado 3A playoffs. The Bears can secure that seed with a victory in week 10 over the Eagle Valley Devils. The Devils are more highly ranked than The Classical academy’s opponent, Pueblo Central. This means that, with a victory, Rifle will maintain their lead over the Titans.
But it remains to be seen the strategy Rifle will take in week 10. For all intents and purposes the game is meaningless other than jockeying for overall seeding in the 3A playoff bracket. The Bears coaching staff may choose to rest the starters for the entirety or at least a portion of the game. It may also be determined that letting up at all at this point would be detrimental to the cause and all hands will be on deck vs. the Devils. It will be an interesting game to watch.
For their part, the Devils at 7-2 still have an outside shot at a 1st round home playoff game. Currently ranked #11 in the rockyprep standings (which closely mirror CHSAA’s wildcard points), the Devils could mathematically still be the 8th seed in the playoffs. The 8 seed, like the 7 conference champions, gets a first-round home game. This is an unlikely scenario but one that only can come to fruition with a win over Rifle on Friday. The Devils also will not want to slip further back in the pack with a loss. They have an incentive to win so that they face a weaker opponent in the 1st round regardless if they garner the 8 seed or not.
The Devils still run the double-wing offense, running a compact, two-tight-end look throughout most of the game. Senior Cole Neilson leads the rushing stats with 640 yards. Quarterback Jordan Hudspeth has almost 700 yards passing for the Devils.
Looking ahead, Rifle’s playoff opponent still cannot be clearly predicted as too much relies on the results of week 10. But the likely opponent comes from the pool of Northridge, Lutheran, Evergreen, Erie, or D’Evelyn. Currently, Lutheran or Evergreen appear to be the most likely candidates.