Late defensive stand keeps Aspen ahead of Coal Ridge |

Late defensive stand keeps Aspen ahead of Coal Ridge

Jon Maletz
Aspen Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” As Coal Ridge forward Darwin Cortez charged down the right sideline in the 77th minute Tuesday, Aspen goalkeeper Alex Owen had little choice but to attack.

“It’s a judgment thing,” Owen said. “If they’re inside the 18 and by themselves, you’ve got to go as hard as you can and get the ball away. I got a little finger on it. It slowed it down just enough.”

Cortez fired a shot that slipped past Owen and seemed destined to find the open net. As the ball tracked the left corner, however, Aspen’s Robbie Franklin came out of nowhere. The junior rushed toward the net, slid and thwarted the potential equalizer mere inches from the goal line.

Franklin saved the Skiers ” they held on for the 2-1 win ” and he just might have saved the season. Basalt locked up an automatic state tournament berth Saturday, but the second bid is still up for grabs. While Aspen was unaware at the time, Vail Mountain School tied Roaring Fork in Carbondale, thus missing its chance to clinch the 3A Western Slope’s final playoff spot.

The Skiers’ often-erratic offense connected early to give Aspen the lead. Junior Jesus Meza found an opening in the middle of a packed box 50 seconds into the match and fired a shot past Titan keeper Skyler James.

Coal Ridge was stunned momentarily.

“Some players put their heads down, but it was just for a second,” Titan coach Brian Blair said. “Then they were right back up. They realized they had 79 minutes left to go. … We were on a three-game win streak, so we thought the breaks would go our way. There was good passing on both sides, and we had some good possessions.”

The Titans (4-8 overall, 3-6 3A Western Slope), who are 2-6 in games decided by one goal or fewer, connected on the equalizer one minute before the half. Fernando Alvarado shook free and fired a shot past an outstretched Owen from 5 yards out.

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