Aspen football beats Coal Ridge on senior day, will face Basalt for league title
It was homecoming. It was senior day. It was the Aspen High School football team’s playoff life on the line. It was a shot at the league title on the line.
So, don’t hold it against AHS senior Noah Hollander if he may have shed a tear or two after Friday’s game, a 37-13 win over Coal Ridge on the AHS turf.
“We could have executed a little better tonight, but it was definitely a good one,” Hollander said. “I’m happy we were able to win our homecoming game, because it’s been a while. I know it means a lot to all of us seniors because all the underclassmen were working their butts off to make sure we got this win tonight. It just feels really good.”
Most importantly, the win gets the No. 10-ranked Skiers to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Class 2A Western Slope League play with one game remaining in the regular season. For Aspen, that game will be next week at Basalt, where a win would give AHS the outright league title.
Basalt, which entered the week a perfect 7-0 and No. 4 in 2A, lost 35-14 at No. 7 Rifle on Friday. That is the same Rifle team that Aspen stunned a week ago when the Bears were undefeated and No. 3 in the state.
This means next week’s game in Basalt will be plenty interesting.
“You got a great Basalt team ahead of you and we have a lot of work to do,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “I can’t speak for them. All I can say is they will be prepared. I guarantee you. And in rivalry games you can throw all the stats and all that out of the window.”
To get to this point, Aspen first had to get by Coal Ridge, which Benson called a “trap game” following last week’s big win at Rifle. It looked easy early, with sophomore quarterback Tyler Ward finding Hollander for a touchdown pass and catch from about 37 yards out for an 8-0 lead.
However, Coal Ridge answered right back with a long drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes of clock, a short Adrian Garcia touchdown run making it 8-6 after a failed conversion. Aspen led 16-6 after a quarter when Ward found junior Max Ufkes from 26 yards.
The teams went to halftime with that same score after both offenses struggled to find rhythm in the second quarter.
“The kids played hard, and it’s hard when you have those little bit of distractions,” Benson said. “The first half, they kept the ball and they held the ball and they kept it away from our offense, which is a good game plan.”
Aspen got it moving again in the second half. The AHS lead grew to 24-6 after a 30-yard touchdown run by junior Jonathan Woodrow midway through the quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Coal Ridge got it back with a short Oscar Salazar run, but Aspen quickly answered when Ward found Hollander for a second time, this one from 35 yards out.
Junior Trey Fabrocini’s 11-yard touchdown run with 2:29 to play put the game to rest.
“I’m very proud of the kids. A lot of distractions, a lot of adversity overcome during homecoming week,” Benson said. “The biggest game of the year is the game after your biggest game. So it was a trap game. Coal Ridge played hard. Those kids have a lot of fight and they are going to be good down the road.”
After the game, the seniors got together at midfield for photos with the coaches. Much like the last win over Rifle, it was a reason to celebrate. But the team also is ready to move past both games with a big one looming this week at Basalt.
“I’ve been a water boy ever since I was little. I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since I was 5,” AHS senior Cooper Johnson said of senior day. “Really, we took it in that one night and then we set our goals for Coal Ridge. And now we are setting our goals for Basalt. We won, but we just look for the week ahead.”
Rifle too much for Basalt in key WSL contest
RIFLE — Needing a bounce-back win in 2A Western Slope League play, the Rifle High School football team dominated in all phases on the game against Basalt on Friday night at Bears Stadium in Rifle, pulling away late for an all-important 35-14 win and knocking the Longhorns from the unbeaten ranks.
The game seemed to swing in Rifle’s favor to start the second half despite the Bears leading 13-7. On the opening kickoff, the Bears appeared to fumble the ball away, but an inadvertent whistle gave the Bears new life, leading to a re-kick. The fumble would have given Basalt the ball at the Rifle 25 yard line to open the half.
Instead, Basalt had to wait nearly 6 minutes to get the ball to start the second half, but the Longhorns wasted no time cashing in as senior quarterback Trevor Reuss snuck into the end zone from 1 yard out with 3:04 left in the third quarter, giving Basalt its first lead of the night at 14-13. It was short-lived, though, as Rifle scored two touchdowns in 5 minutes to pull away from the Longhorns.
Following Basalt’s go-ahead drive, Rifle responded by going 52 yards in 6 plays, highlighted by a 17-yard naked bootleg by junior quarterback Holden Stutsman and a 15-yard scamper by senior fullback Tanner Vines, leading to a 1-yard touchdown from Vines and a 2-point conversion from Stutsman to junior Levi Warfel, making it a 21-14 game with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Rifle senior linebacker Paden Kinion picked off Reuss on a fake punt to start the fourth quarter, leading to a 43-yard touchdown run by Vines, putting the game away for the Bears with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bears tacked on one more touchdown for good measure after junior safety Kenny Tlaxcala picked off Reuss on a leaping grab, setting up Vines’ third rushing touchdown of the night, this one from 1 yard out, capping off the 35-14 win.
In the loss, Reuss threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to junior Jackson Rapaport and added the rushing touchdown to his credit before leaving the game late due to injury. Basalt turned the ball over five times (three interceptions and two fumbles), while also turning the ball over on downs two times, resulting in the high-powered offense getting slowed down by Rifle on the night.
The loss drops Basalt (7-1, 3-1 2A Western Slope League) into a three-way tie with Aspen and Rifle with one game remaining.
The Glenwood Springs Post Independent contributed to this story. For a full recap of the Basalt game, visit aspentimes.com/news/sports.
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As a new transplant to the area, each week I will feature a trail within the Garfield County limits. For this inaugural week, I’m highlighting Glenwood Springs’ own Atkinson Canal Trail.