Titans stun top-ranked Skiers
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY – Playing games that mean something in late October is something the Coal Ridge High School football team isn’t used to just yet. They became acquainted with it real fast against the Aspen Skiers on Friday.
Junior running back Cody Walls finished with 268 all-purpose yards – including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to quash Aspen’s comeback bid – and the Titans upset Aspen, Class 2A’s top-ranked team, 27-14, in a critical, rain-soaked Class 2A Western Slope League game or both teams.
“We’ve never really been here yet, that is playing games that mean something late in the season,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Parker said. “This is what we’ve talked about all spring and all summer. Now we’re there.”
And then some.
The Titans (6-2 overall, 3-2 in the 2A WSL) not only controlled the game against Aspen a week after a 43-0 loss to Olathe, but they could move into second place in the league standings with a win at Basalt next Friday and a loss by Aspen to Olathe.
The Skiers (7-1, 4-1), however, play a critical game at Olathe next Friday where a win would put them back in the driver’s seat for the league title. Not that the Titans were intimidated on Friday.
“We looked at them like they were just another football team. They’re humans, too,” said Walls, who also threw a 19-yard TD pass and had a 96-yard TD run. “Everyone’s beatable. We’re beatable. We know anyone can lose, and we came out with a lot of determination knowing that.”
The Titans kicked the Skiers out of the driver’s seat in this one, though. Coal Ridge forced turnovers on Aspen’s first two possessions – five all together – and scored on both of them.
Walls’ triple-figure pick six just when the Skiers were ready to get back in the ball game essentially sealed it.
“They were going in for a second score there, and Cody made that great pick,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Parker said. “We had a couple of great blocks on that play, and Cody just did the rest.”
After the Titans had taken a 20-0 halftime lead, Dan Ryerson capped a 56-yard Aspen drive with a 4-yard plunge to bring the Skiers within two scores. Aspen forced a fumble on the Titans’ next possession, getting the ball on the Coal Ridge 17.
On the second play of the drive, Walls intercepted Rex Christensen’s pass at the goal line, dodged a few tackles near the 20 and raced to the end zone with 3 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Skiers’ offense was silent the rest of the game.
“We got behind early in the first two games of the year and still won, which is why I thought we could come back here,” said Aspen coach Mike Sirko. “But we made too many mistakes. When that kid returned the ball 100 yards for a touchdown, it ain’t meant to be.”
Ryerson finished with 89 rushing yards on 28 carries to lead the Skiers. Walls finished with 149 yards on 15 carries, and his 19-yard TD pass to McCade Cox in the first quarter was the Titans’ only completion.
Coal Ridge took control early thanks to Aspen’s early miscues. Colton Schelling intercepted a Christensen pass on Aspen’s second play from scrimmage and, two plays after that, Walls found Cox in the end zone on a halfback pass to give the Titans the lead for good with 6:35 remaining in the first quarter.
The Titans recovered an Aspen fumble on the second play of the Skiers’ next possession, and Alex Zupcsek nailed a 42-yard field goal for a 10-0 Coal Ridge cushion. Aspen drove to the Coal Ridge 1 two possessions later but was stopped on a goal-line stand by the Titans, a huge early momentum swing that stopped a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
“We just blasted hard and looked for the ball the whole time. Just fundamental football,” Coal Ridge lineman Giovanny Hernandez said. “It was all about keeping their guys in front of us, and we did it the whole game.”
Three plays after the Titans’ defense held, Coal Ridge went up 17-0 on a 96-yard jaunt by Walls from the Wildcat formation.
“We want to win, and we have a lot of heart in our game,” Walls said. “We’ve wanted to turn this program around since the spring. We said after last season we were going to fight as hard as we could to get to this point, and we’ve done it.”
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