Delta and Rifle Football set to Clash in State Championship, Montrose Advances

Published: Nov. 18, 2023 at 8:28 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - There were three huge playoff football matchups on the Western Slope, and it was a clean sweep for the home teams. The Delta Panthers, Rifle Bears, and Montrose Red Hawks are all moving on.

The Class 2A State Championship for High School Football will be a Western Slope Showdown between the Delta Panthers and Rifle Bears after they won their semifinal mashups.

The Montrose Red Hawks Football team is headed to the Class 4A semifinals as well after handling business in their quarterfinal game.

Over in Delta, the undefeated Panthers took a 21-3 lead on the Moffat County Bulldogs into the third quarter, when their defense might have suppressed any chance of a Bulldog comeback with a pick six by Senior Defender Jordan Fraser, that put them up a commanding 28-3. Fraser would be a one-man wrecking crew for the Bulldog passing attack, as he’d pick off another pass with under a minute left in the game, locking up the Panthers 28-10 victory.

With the win, the Panthers return to the championship game for the second year in a row.

Delta will play the winner of a game occurring just under a 100-mile drive away in Rifle. Where the Bears were taking on the three-time defending Class 2A Champions, the team who took down Delta last year, the Eaton Reds.

The Bears went up 12-0 on the defending champs after a great deep pass from Senior Quarterback Logan Gross to Senior Receiver Joel Valencia. However the defending champs defense made back-to-back interceptions, the second being a pick-six by Senior Defensive Back Aiden Adams.

Eaton was able to make it a three-point game at 18-15, but Rifle gave themselves some breathing room, when Junior Running Back Isaac Valencia carried about half of the Reds defense with him into the endzone, putting the Bears up 24-15. This is the Bear’s first time back at a title game since snapping a 17-year drought back in the 2020-2021 Season.

That score would hold at a final of 24-15 and Rifle defeats the back-to-back-to-back champs, and advances to the championship game against Delta next week at the Pueblo Thunderbowl.

These two teams met earlier in the season, when the undefeated Panthers handed Rifle the only loss on their resume, in a 28-7 Delta victory.

Montrose followed their usual recipe for success, a powerful run game, and a defense that capitalizes on any mistakes made by the opposition, in a 26-7 victory over the Windsor Wizards. On the ground, Senior Running Back Blake Griffin found the endzone four times. Pair that with the sturdy Red Hawk defense that forced a turnover and stifled the Wizards offense all game long.

The Red Hawks now advance to the Class semifinals, where they will also get a rematch, taking on the Erie Tigers, the team that beat the Red Hawks by the widest margin of any team this season in a 38-28 Tiger win.