Steamboat Springs Rifle High School football coach Darrel Gorham may have eight new faces on defense this year, but his Bear football squad is ranked fifth in the state 3A conference by the Denver Post and should have another successful season.
The Bears, 10-2 last year, lost seven starters on offense, but senior wide receivers Lehvy Davis and Brandon Gross figure to play major roles in the team's race for a state playoff berth. The team will miss all-state linebacker Alfonso Alfini, but linebacker Jeff Harper is touted as a key player at that position.
In 1999, the Bears lost 15 seniors from their 1998 state playoff team, but still managed to finish with a 10-win season.
"This year we should be a lot more balanced," Gorham said. "We should be right in the mix for a championship, I would think, as long as we don't have any injuries."
Rifle is known for running the ball, but Gorham says he will use more pass plays, and go to his talented set of receivers in Davis and Gross.
The Bears will have tough contests against No. 10 Steamboat and No. 3 Palisade, but team captains Ryan Whington, Justin Brun and Harper should have the team in the playoff hunt.
Gorham feels that his offense is a lot stronger in 2000.
Offensively, the Bears run a multiple set formation, led by junior quarterback Whington. Harper and Brun will be major forces on the offensive line.
The team runs an attack defense out of a 4-4 set, but will miss eight starters from last year.
Gorham admits to having some weaknesses on defense, including starting inexperience and his team's lack of physical play against the run and pass.
Gorham is concerned about playing Moffat County, which dropped from the 4A Western Slope Conference to join 3A this season. Rifle opens its season with Salida High School, and faces Steamboat at home on Oct. 27. The team has 82 players in its varsity and junior varsity program.
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