Steamboat Springs Only one team could walk away from Gardner field Friday night with its undefeated league status still intact.
With one field goal and one touchdown in the final four minutes of the game, Rifle broke open a 7-7 stalemate to ensure they were the team with the 6-0 record in the Western Slope League.
Unable to generate its running game and producing a shaky passing game that led to zero completions and three interceptions, the Steamboat offense was held to one touchdown in the second quarter. As the Sailors (8-1) dropped their first game of the year, the offense produced 101 yards, and the Sailors' leading rusher, Joey Marias, 11 yards.
Offensively, we couldn't put things together tonight," Sailors coach Mark Drake said. "(The offensive line) couldn't sustain its blocks. They beat us in the trenches."
With a 7-7 tie midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears began a long drive upfield with runs by tailback Ryan Enright and quarterback Ryan Whittington.
But at the10-yard line, the Sailors defense stepped it up and did not let the Bears into the end zone for three downs. On fourth down from the 3, the Bears' Ryan Muldoon kicked the field goal to put the Bears up by three points.
The Sailors' hopes for a win remained alive as Marias returned the kickoff to the 50-yard line to start the offensive drive with 3 minutes and 21 seconds left on the clock. The drive was stopped on fourth and 6 when quarterback Tanner Barr's pass intended for Adam Grimes was intercepted by the Bears' Jason Enewold.
Because of the interception, the Bears took over at the Sailors' 45-yard line.
Whittington secured the win when he charged past three Sailors defenders on a 29-yard carry before Ray Banning wrapped him up at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Whittington again held onto the ball to take it around the left corner and into the end zone for a 16-7 lead.
"We didn't have a whole lot of offense," Whittington said. "I don't know what happened in the first three quarters. (In the fourth) we finally got a drive together and scored."
A two-point conversion from Whittington to Troy Weiss gave the Bears a safe lead of 18-7.
With 45 seconds left in the game, the Sailors' last hope for a touchdown died on the first play when Barr threw his third interception of the night.
Although the Bears' offense looked unstoppable in the first drive of the game as Enright found holes through the center for a 14-yard touchdown, the Sailors' defense held the Bears until the fourth quarter.
"Defensively we played very good," defensive lineman Wes Adams said. "We slipped up some; we should have shut them out. We gave up that early touchdown. That made all the difference."
The Sailors tied the game in the second quarter as Barr scored on a 1-yard touchdown at the 4:31-mark.