Rifle Ryan Whittington threw for 128 yards and rushed for a touchdown as the Rifle Bears upended the Steamboat Sailors 23-13 Friday at Rifle.
Steamboat, which was led on offense by running back Stewart Beall, allowed just three points in the second half, but committed three turnovers that led to its downfall.
Beall, who rushed for 121 yards on 21 carries, closed the margin to 20-12 near the end of the first half on a short run, but the score turned out to be the final touchdown of the game.
Jordy Gunderson added an extra point and Bears kicker Jack Pulliam booted a 17-yard field goal to close out the scoring.
The Sailors, 4-2 and 7-2, put together just 258 yards of offense, including 191 yards on the ground.
Hunter Maddox had a 19-yard score and Beall ran in the five-yard touchdown.
Both teams' defenses played heroically in the second half, but Steamboat's turnovers and its four penalties likely made the difference.
Derek Haverley broke free for about 30 yards on a running play in the fourth quarter but the call was negated on a clipping penalty.
Instead of a first-down and ten from about midfield, the Sailors were forced into a second and long from deep in their own territory.
The penalty wasn't the only misfortune for Steamboat.
On a fourth and three from the Sailors eight-yard line, the Bears appeared to have been stopped short but Rifle was awarded a first down without a measurement call.
The Sailors defense responded well, preventing a touchdown despite the Bears possessing a first and goal from the five-yard line. Gaspar Perricone came up big with a sack to stall the drive.
But Pulliam nailed the field goal to give his team a 10-point lead.
Sailors quarterback Rusty Eck finished on just 5-19 passing for 67 yards and the offense was held way below its 46-points-per-game season average.
The Bears, 6-0 and 8-1, cemented their spot in the state playoffs, which begin Nov. 11.
The Sailors, meanwhile, are still in contention but must face the Delta Panthers Nov. 3 at Delta.
If the Sailors defeat the Panthers they will qualify for the playoffs.
Beall, who now has 893 yards on the season, said his team looks to regroup in a big way against Delta.
"We're just going to have to come out and play our style of ball," Beall said. "We just need to play Steamboat football and we should come out on top. Hopefully, we can get back up to those 40 points per game, and we should be fine."
Whittington, who had the big day for Rifle, said the Steamboat game was his team's toughest league challenge of the year.
"Steamboat was good," Whittington said. "I mean, they gave us our toughest run all year. A couple of bad breaks our way, a couple of interceptions, it would have been a lot closer."
Tristan Covillo, who made four tackles for the Sailors, said his team shot itself in the foot against the Bears.
"I think what killed us really was our turnovers," Covillo said. "Overall, it was a good performance in the second half. If we would have played the whole game like that we would have won."
To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com