The Bears had no problem with the Battle Mountain Huskies last Friday, but tomorrow’s match-up with Palisade will be much, much tougher. In a variety of 3A Prep football polls Rifle is ranked #1 and Palisade is ranked #2. The winner is in the driver’s seat to a League title, and the loser will be looking for revenge somewhere down the line in the 3A state football playoffs.

Palisade is tough as ever with their usual gritty play up front and a multiple threat in Quarterback Luke McLean. Rifle is known to the outside world as the Ryan Moeller show (and justifiably so), but anyone who has watched the Bears closely over the past three weeks couldn’t help but notice the emergence of Kellin Leigh and the passing tandem of Adam Rice and Aaron Wagler. Add to that a starting defense that has only surrendered one touchdown over the course of five games and you have a recipe for success.

Breaking down the game:

1. Palisade has to stop or at least contain Ryan Moeller. This is no easy task, but if any team can do it it is the Bulldogs.

2. Rifle must defend the pass. Rifle’s defense has been stifling this year, but the only glimmer of weakness has been the susceptibility to an aerial attack.

3. Neither team can afford more than one turnover. Both teams are so good at capitalizing on opponents mistakes that two or more turnovers means the likelihood of victory is slight.

4. Palisade can’t fall behind early like they did last year. Although they almost made a dramatic comeback, this year’s Rifle defense has been tougher on opponents than they were in 2011. A big rally is unlikely.

5. Rifle must take the pressure of Moeller. Last year Brandon Kittle seemed to shock the Palisade defense with huge runs. While the Bulldogs aligned to take care of #5 in 2011, Kittle was left almost undefended at times. If Rifle can develop a 1-2 punch this year, whether it be Kellin Leigh or the aerial game, it might be hard for Palisade to keep up.

6. Rifle can’t allow Palisade to control the clock. The Bear’s offense is explosive when they are on the field, but if a strong Palisade offense keeps them on the sidelines, it will be the Bulldogs’ night.

7. Neither team can let the moment get to them. This will be the biggest stage that any of these kids have played on with literally thousands of people in the stands to watch. The team that remains the most calm and businesslike has the best opportunity to win.

A Huge News Round-Up This Week:

Bears dismantle Battle Mountain
This week’s top-10 football schedule, by class
High school football rankings: Cherokee Trail makes season debut in poll
10 high school football games to watch, led by Brighton vs. Thornton
Rifle Bear on the fly: Moeller knows how to score – Grand Junction Daily sentinel (Subscription Required)
No. 2 Palisade Primed for Thursday’s Match-up With No. 1 Rifle – KREX TV (with Video)
Rifle’s Ryan Moeller Talks Thursday’s Matchup With No. 2 Palisade – KREX TV (with Video)
No.2 Palisade Begins Preparation For Big Match-Up Against No. 1 Rifle – KREX TV (with Video)
No. 1 Rifle Outscoring Opponents 235-12 after Homecoming Shutout
Rifle & Palisade Try To Avoid Hype – KJCT TV (with video)
Red Zone – Game Changer – KJCT (with Video)