Rifle The first half of Friday night's football game at Rifle went nearly as scripted. The second half, however, was a disaster.
The Sailors allowed a 7-0 halftime deficit to turn into a 34-0 blowout loss as the top-ranked Bears pressured Steamboat's offense into its worst performance of the season.
Averaging more than 200 rushing yards and 29 points a contest, the Sailors' potent ground game was held to just 75 yards Friday night at Bears Stadium.
Steamboat's passing game proved just as ineffective, as quarterbacks David May and Joel Adams went a combined 4-of-14 with three interceptions.
"Their defensive line dominated our offensive line," Sailors coach Mark Drake said. "They brought a lot of pressure."
Following the game, Rifle coach Darrel Gorham said he was concerned about Steamboat's passing attack coming into the contest. He noticed that if May or Adams had time to throw the ball, they were often successful.
The Bears' job was to prevent anything from reaching the hands of receivers by reaching the quarterback first. May and Adams were under pressure most of the night as they were flushed from the pocket early and forced to make things happen off-balance and on the run.
It isn't a recipe for success.
"The offense stunk up the place tonight," Drake said.
For as well as the Bears' defense played for a full 48 minutes, the Sailors matched them play for play in the first half. The Bears' lone score came on a 41-yard pass from Jason Enewold to Mike Birdsley on the first play from scrimmage following J.R. Childress' interception of May at the end of the first quarter.
Behind sophomore Chris Baumann's three sacks for a total of 27 yards, Steamboat's defense halted every real drive Rifle threw at them in the first half. Meanwhile, the offense couldn't capitalize, stalling out and even fumbling two yards from the goal line on a botched exchange between Adams and senior Pat McMahon.
Both returned in the second quarter after sitting out the past several games with injuries. After the game, McMahon said he didn't really even remember touching the ball, but the lack of practice time and live contact he and Adams have had in the past several weeks certainly didn't make the handoff easier.
Frustration hit a game high in the second half. A tired defense spent a majority of the game trying to overcome six turnovers by the offense and special teams. Eventually, the strength of Rifle's line, coupled with the option combination of Enewold and Troy Weiss, got the better of Steamboat.
"We've been playing pretty good defensively," Gorham said. "We've said all along that if we're playing good defense and our offense is kind of sputtering, we can figure things out and come out and do some different stuff, and the offense did a little bit better in the second half and our defense played well all night."
In Steamboat's case, the offense has been a strong suit for most of the season finding ways to win games. On Friday night, the defense did all it could to keep the Sailors in the game.
"I thought in the first half, especially, our defense did an outstanding job," Drake said. "Bottom line is their defensive line beat us in the trenches."
For most of the fourth quarter, Steamboat kept telling itself it was better than the performance on the field or the score on the board showed. Drake felt the same way. Gorham certainly thought so.
"They are a ton better than that," the Rifle coach said.
Drake thought the frustration spilled onto the field, hurting the execution even more in the second half, but he's confident his team will rebound in practice this week.
At 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the league, the Sailors are still in position to finish third in the Western Slope, securing the final playoff spot.
They just can't lose again, and the Moffat County Bulldogs are coming to town next.
Rifle, at 8-0 and 4-0, is assured of a postseason trip, and with games against Cortez and Glenwood Springs remaining, Rifle is poised to run the table.