Skiers back in the groove, crush Roaring Fork |

Skiers back in the groove, crush Roaring Fork

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan Special to the Post Independent

ASPEN, Colorado – The Skiers are back.

Now, the second season awaits.

Playoff-bound Aspen showed no residual effects from consecutive road losses when it returned home to host Roaring Fork in Friday’s regular-season finale. Skiers quarterback Rex Christensen was nearly flawless, running back Daniel Ryerson scored three times – all in the first 15 minutes – and Aspen’s “Black Shirts” smothered the Rams’ offense all evening in a resounding 48-0 victory.

“We all needed this. We had that spark again,” Christensen said. “We knew that if we came out hard, we could carry that momentum throughout the game.”

The Skiers did just that on their first offensive possession, orchestrating a 15-play drive that covered 98 yards and consumed 6 minutes, 39 seconds of the first quarter. Ryerson capped things off with a 14-yard touchdown scamper, giving Aspen a 6-0 lead with 2:25 remaining in the quarter.

The senior was just getting started. On the opening play of the Skiers’ next possession, Ryerson took the hand-off on a counter and sprinted untouched 53 yards to the end zone.

Three minutes into the second quarter, he bulled his way in from the Roaring Fork 7 to extend the Aspen advantage to 20-0. Ryerson finished with 131 yards on 15 carries.

The Skiers (8-2 overall, 5-2 2A Western Slope), who tallied just 28 points in their previous two games, scored TDs on all five of their first-half possessions Friday.

“We didn’t hurt ourselves,” Aspen head coach Mike Sirko said. “To take charge like that on the first drive, to come down and score, that’s the old Aspen football right there. … They all played well. You can’t really ask for more.”

Shortly after Mike Schwartz picked off Rams quarterback Clay Gross with 7:13 remaining in the first half, the Skiers’ potent offense struck again.

Christensen dropped back and lofted a perfect pass across the middle to tight end Jake Nugent, who rumbled 32 yards and dove across the goal line.

Later, on a fourth-and 10, about 90 seconds before the break, Christensen connected with receiver Quinn Morehead on another 32-yard scoring strike, putting Aspen ahead, 34-0.

Morehead hauled in five passes for 110 yards on the night. Christensen, who was picked off four times in the previous two games, completed 7 of 9 pass attempts for 160 yards and two TDs in little more than a half on the field.

“With Nicky [Ufkes] out, I knew I would have to step up. I was frustrated I was not able to perform,” Christensen said. “I had a big awakening this week. … The coaches told me they had faith in me. … I came in confident.”

Apparently, so did the defense. They forced the Rams (3-7), winners of two of their previous three games, to punt on four of their six possessions in the first half; Roaring Fork’s last drive was cut short when time ran out.

The shutout is Aspen’s third this season, but its first since Oct. 1 against Grand Valley.

“We really responded tonight,” Sirko said. “That’s what we had to do, especially with the second season coming up.”

Fullback Joe O’Callaghan found the end zone on a 12-yard counter on the Skiers’ first drive of the second half. Soon after, a running clock was instituted and Aspen’s first team was taken out of the game.

Junior Nick Belinski provided the exclamation point early in the fourth quarter, returning a punt 70 yards for a score.

Now, Aspen prepares for a fourth-consecutive trip to the playoffs. The bracket will be released Sunday afternoon.

“I can’t wait,” Christensen said. “We know how we need to play to get the job done.”

Added Sirko: “This is our fourth year doing it, and this might feel as good as any of them. … There’s a lot still out there to achieve. I really believe that.”

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