Historically, the Bears have been one of the most successful teams in Colorado’s 3A football division. The Bears are currently back-to-back Western Slope League champions and are 24-2 over the course of the last two seasons. Rifle enjoyed a stretch of 13 consecutive playoff appearances, a state championship, a state runner-up, and four league championships between 1995 and 2007.
In 2012 the Bears rode a 13-0 record to the state finals where they were upset by Silver Creek. Despite finishing fourth in the Western Slope Conference in 2004 and 2005, the Bears appeared in two consecutive 3A state championship games, and brought home the state title in 2004. The Bears also won the state title in 1973 and 1961.
In 2005, Coal Ridge High School opened in Silt and effectively cut enrollment in half at Rifle High School. As a result, RHS operated at the very minimum student enrollment numbers to compete at the 3A level. Instability in the coaching staff and the effects of the opening of CRHS led to losing seasons in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Rifle rebounded and nearly made the playoffs. In 2011 the Bears ran the table in their league, won their first playoff game and then fell to a Windsor team that went on to win the state title. The 2012 Bears were dominant, posting a 13-1 record, a state finals appearance and a second-consecutive western slope league championship.
The Western Slope League has proven to be one of the most competitive leagues in the state in the past 15 years. Palisade High School won 4 straight state championships between 1994 and 1997 won another in 2003 and have appeared in the semi-finals numerous times. Steamboat Springs was a state semi-finalist in 2003, and in 2006 won the League Championship (the Sailors won the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bears). The Sailors were also league champions and a state finalist in 2009. Glenwood Springs won the state championship in 2008 and returned to the finals in 2010. Overall, the Western Slope Conference has won 7 of the last 19 state championships and has been the runner-up in five other championship games over the same time period.
After winning the state championship in 2004, Head Coach Darrel Gorham took the reins at Highlands Ranch High School. Gorham had coached the Bears since 1990 and was responsible for building the program into a periennial playoff contender.
Current Head Coach Damon Wells moved up from the Defensive Coordinator position to replace Gorham and returned the Bears to the State Championship game in 2005. After playoff appearances in 2006 and 2007, Wells stepped down from coaching for a year. He returned as Defensive Coordinator in 2009 and in 2010 he agreed to again be the head coach for the Bears. Wells has posted back-to-back league championships and a 30-8 record since taking over the program once again.
Gordon Cooper was another legendary Bears head coach. Cooper, along with assistant Jack Smith, was at the helm for the Bears’ 1973 and 1961 runs to the state championship and also led the Bears to State Baseball championships in the 1980s. Cooper was a stand out wide receiver for the University of Denver Pioneers and was inducted into their athletics hall of fame in 2010. Cooper also played in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers.
- 29 Colorado State Playoff Appearances
- 54 Total State Playoff Games
- 27-26-1 All-Time Playoff Record (Single Elimination)
- 13 Consecutive State Playoff Appearances from 1995 to 2007
- 3 State Championships
- 3 State Runners-Up
- 2012 – The class of 2013 cemented their legacy in Rifle football history by winning 13 games, a second consecutive league title and making it all the way to the 3A state finals. Unfortunately the Bears fell short to Silver Creek 32-15 in the state title game. The 2013 seniors achieved a record of 24-2 in their last two years of playing for the Bears. Ryan Moeller rushed for 3002 yards on the year with 50 touchdowns.
- 2011 – Undersized but speedy, the Bears ran the table in the always tough Western Slope League and posted a perfect 10-0 record on the year. Junior Ryan Moeller rushed for more than 2000 yards on the season and led the state in rushing yards as the Bears earned their first league championship since 2002. In the playoffs, Rifle beat the Roosevelt Roughriders 14-7 before falling to the Windsor Wizards 36-15 on a frozen field at Bears Stadium. The small senior class of 2011/2012 was one for the history books. They experienced a four win season as sophomores only to turn it all around and go undefeated as seniors, putting Rifle squarely back on the Colorado prep football map.
- 2006 – The Bears finished tied with Steamboat for the best record in the Western Slope Conference, but the Sailors won the league championship by way of their head-to-head win over Rifle. Rifle beat Elizabeth in the first round of the playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Alamosa in the second round.
- 2005 – The Bears finished the season in 4th place in the Western Slope Conference but knocked off the #1 ranked and unbeaten Northridge Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Wins over Elizabeth and Steamboat Springs earned the Bears their second straight state championship berth. The Bears lost the game to Florence at Bears Stadium.
- 2004 – The Bears finished the season in 4th place in the Western Slope Conference but knocked off the #1 seeded Florence Huskies in the first round of the playoffs. After a home win over Conifer, the Bears pulled off what may be the biggest upset in school history by beating unbeaten and #1 ranked Niwot in the state semi-finals. This set up a showdown with Sterling for the State Championship. The Bears won an extremely close game 7-6 for their third state championship.
- 2002 – The Bears ran the table through the regular season, winning the Western Slope league in an overtime thriller with Palisade in Grand Junction. The #1 ranked Bears were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Fountain-Fort Carson in one of the toughest defeats in school history.
- 2001 – The Bears won the Western Slope League Championship losing just one regular season game to eventual state champion Fort Morgan. The first round was unkind to the Bears as they were upset by the Valley Vikings on their home field.
- 1999 – The Bears won the Western Slope League Championship and went on to beat Windsor in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round the Bears travelled to Alamosa and were defeated by the Mean Moose 20-0.
- 1998 – The Bears won their first Western Slope league championship in two decades. After beating D’Evelyn in the first round of the playoffs the Bears lost a hard-fought battle with Brush at Bears Stadium.
- 1992 – The Bears qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 12 years in Darrel Gorham’s second year as head coach. The Bears lost a close game to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs in the opening round of the playoffs.
- 1974 – The Bears had a great regular season but lost to Salida in the semi-finals after Russell Hiner was injured in a playoff win over Las Animas. The loss broke the Bears’ 22 game winning streak.
- 1973 – Behind the power running of star running back Russell Hiner, the Bears won their second state championship over Yuma 8-6.
- 1961 – Rifle won a share of its first state championship by tying Louisville 6 to 6
- 1952 – The Bears made it all the way to the state championship game but lost to Fort Morgan 21 to 14 at home.