In 2014, Rifle qualified for its fourth state championship game in 11 seasons. The Bears lost to Pueblo East in the title game. In 2012 the Bears set a team record with 13 consecutive wins. The Bears qualified for 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.
Historically, the Bears have been one of the most successful teams in Colorado’s middle football divisions, currently riding a streak of nine straight playoff appearances. The Bears are the reigning (and back to back) 2A West Slope League Champions. Rifle also was four-time 3A West Slope League Champions from 2011 – 2014. Rifle won the league title outright in 2011 and 2012, shared it with Palisade in 2013 and again won it outright in 2014. Rifle enjoyed a stretch of 13 consecutive playoff appearances, a state championship, a state runner-up, and five league championships between 1995 and 2007.
Highlights of the first 100 wins for Coach Damon Wells
Head Coach Damon Wells started his career at RHS in 2000. He moved up from his Defensive Coordinator position to the head coach role in 2005. The Bears were fresh off of a State Championship in 2004 and Wells 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 then posted four consecutive first-place league finishes, with two state championship game appearances.
In 2018, the Bears dropped from 3A to 2A and the Bears won the 2A West Slope League. The team accomplished the same feat in the 2019 season. These accomplishments gave Wells his 7th overall league championship and his teams have made playoff appearances in twelve of his thirteen seasons as head coach. As both a head coach and an assistant, Coach Wells has coached the Bears in four state championship games. Wells won his 100th game as Rifle’s head coach in 2018 and has achieved a 118-36 overall record since taking over the program. He has won multiple League Coach of the Year Honors and has twice been named the Denver Broncos Football Coach of the Week.
The Bears have been perennial playoff contenders since 1992. Before Coach Wells took over the program, Darrel Gorham was the head coach at Rifle High School for fourteen seasons. Coach Gorham took over a program with zero playoff appearances in the previous seven seasons. He immediately went to work building the program returned the Bears to the post season in his second year. After eleven playoff appearances, four league championships and a finally state championship in 2004, Coach Gorham took the reins at Highlands Ranch High School for the 2005 season.
On December 4, 2004 in front of a capacity crowd, the Rifle Bears capped off the most remarkable playoff run in the school’s history by beating Sterling 7-6 to win the State Championship. The Bears had entered the playoffs as the lowest seed and ere the fourth and final playoff contender out of the 3A Western Slope League. A road victory over the 2003 State Runner-Up Florence Huskies gave the Bears a huge confidence boost. The Huskies had entered the playoffs as the #1 seed out of the Southern Conference and were serious title contenders.
Rifle continued to surprise by rolling over Conifer at Bears Stadium. The Lobos entered the post-season as the #2 seed out fo the Metro Conference but never led in the contest as the Bears rolled to a 38-22 victory.
The next week Rifle drew the Niwot Cougars. Niwot was the #1 seed out of the Tri-Valley Conference and was a perfect 12-0 on the season. The outsized Bears built an early lead and hung on for a 23-20 win, setting up the Finals match-up wit