Rye tests powerful Akron in Class 1A football semifinals.
By JUDY HILDNER
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
It took just four minutes and seven plays last weekend for Jeff Bailey and his Rye High School football team to know they had arrived.
Now they're looking for more.
That four minutes last weekend was the time it took the T-Bolts to score on their opening drive against Burlington en route to a 38-13 victory over the always-powerful Cougars in the Class 1A state quarterfinals. Now, undefeated Rye moves to the next level against Akron, the three-time defending state champions who come in with a 10-1 record. Game time is 1 p.m. at Rye.
Bailey realized Rye could beat Burlington as the opening drive unfolded. "On that first series, when we were able to move the ball that way," Bailey said about pounding the ball downfield from the Rye 29.
Now the Bolts are back in the semifinals at home, the same position they were in a year ago when they lost 27-0 to Wray, the eventual runner-up to Akron in the 1A title game. They have seven senior standouts who remember losing a year ago as well as a solid cast of underclassmen.
Both teams play old-fashioned, pound-it-out football with the Rams lining up in the single wing, an offense they have perfected over decades. Bailey called coach Brian Christensen and his predecessor Carl Rice, who is still an assistant, two real masters of the formation.
Rye last saw Akron early in the 2005 playoffs but Bailey said Rye's offense is very similar.
"We've told the kids that with the exception of one player and who gets the snap, it's almost the same - the same kind of spacing on the line, the same wedge play we run.
"Akron's bigger than us. Not at every position but overall," Bailey said. "We've got some speed on them."
That speed comes in the form of senior twins Jake and Luke Van, a quick compliment to the pounding of fullback tandem Chaz Guerrero and Billy Jack Forell. Jake Van has rushed for 1,802 yards in 11 games while Luke Van has accounted for 1,065 yards.
Forell leads the Bolts on defense at linebacker with 65 tackles and Jake Van has 45 stops at defensive back.
Akron is led by Jourdan Hottinger with 1,679 yards rushing out of what Bailey characterized as a wingback position.
"They can also pass the ball some," Bailey said. "But, if we can get them in the position to where they have to pass, we're doing something right."
Although the Vans’ breakway speed allows Rye to score quickly, both teams typically grind out yardage and playing from behind is a struggle.
In the other semifinal, 10-1 Limon plays at 11-0 Yuma, also at 1 p.m. Saturday. It was Yuma that snapped a 46-game Akron winning streak 17-14 on Oct. 23.
The Pueblo Chieftain