Roaring Fork High Rams end losing skid vs. Aspen Skiers
Post Independent Sports Editor
CARBONDALE — Tanner Nieslanik’s 51-yard run in the fourth quarter set up a go-ahead field goal from Alex Fisher, and Aspen’s field goal attempt with close to 13 seconds remaining failed in the Roaring Fork High School football team’s 20-17 nonleague victory Friday night.
Nieslanik also had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter that gave the Rams (2-0 overall) an early lead. The victory for Roaring Fork was its first over the Skiers (1-1) in six years.
Ryan Fitzgerald finished with a game-high 147 rushing yards and a TD on 28 carries for Aspen, which had a pair of lost fumbles and were unable to take advantage of 11 penalties from Roaring Fork.
Nieslanik, who alternated between quarterback and running back for the Rams, finished with 74 yards rushing with a TD to lead the Rams.
Aspen’s defense limited him to negative-1 yard on his first 11 carries.
His big run came with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Roaring Fork senior broke through a pile on a third-and-1 play from the Rams’ 40, then broke into the clear before he was run down at the Skiers’ 9. The Skiers kept the Rams out of the end zone on the next three plays, and Fisher nailed a 27-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 23 seconds remaining to snap a 17-all tie.
Aspen got the ball back on their own 31 and, 11 plays later, spiked the ball on Roaring Fork’s 23 with 13.5 seconds remaining. It gave a chance at a 39-yard field goal to Aspen kicker John Heaphey, who had nailed a 32-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the fourth quarter to knot the score at 17.
But the snap slipped in the wet and soggy conditions on the Roaring fork Middle School football field. Aspen tight end Henry Woodrow scooped the ball up and threw a desperation pass up the field, but it fell incomplete.
Nieslanik’s punt return for a score — his second punt return for a TD in as many games — was helped by a pancake block from Roaring Fork’s Nate Nieslanik on Aspen’s Wyatt Young. It opened up the sideline for Nieslanik, who ran into the end zone with 7:36 left in the first quarter.
Aspen responded in the second quarter with a 21-yard jaunt from Fitzgerald with 10:19 left before halftime that knotted the score at 7-7 following Heaphey’s point-after kick. Fisher gave Roaring Fork a 10-7 halftime lead with a 28-yard field goal, and Nieslanik’s 6-yard scoring run in the third quarter gave the Rams a 17-7 lead.
The Skiers responded, though, driving 76 yards on 10 plays and pulling within 17-14 on a 2-yard TD run from Young.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.