It's a simple approach. Give the ball to Nicky Ufkes and wait for good things to happen.
As he has all season, the shifty Aspen running back with a penchant for breaking ankles had his way with an opposing defense Friday. The senior amassed 251 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries to lead the Skiers to a 27-0 win against Grand Valley.
"That's what we expect," Ufkes said. "We're a run-first offense and we have a well-conditioned line, so we're ready for a 40-carry game or a 10-carry game, because we can run or throw the ball."
Cardinals coach Mike Johnson knew exactly what to expect from Ufkes and company. He, like nearly every other coach who has ever schemed to stop No. 26, just didn't have a good answer.
"We game-plan for their counter trey and counter series," Johnson said. "At times, we'd do a nice job, but, you know, they never really hit us big. Not very often, anyways. Just getting them off the field [was the problem]. They have a good offensive line, a good running back, good coaching. They are a good, solid football team."
Aspen, which this week jumped to No. 1 in the Denver Post's Class 2A poll and is now 5-0, dominated in all phases of the game while playing homecoming spoiler in Parachute.
Calling Ufkes' number on virtually every down, the Skiers charged down the field with ease on an 86-yard opening drive. Ufkes finished the march with 97 yards - the last couple coming on a 2-yard TD run and 47 more on a long run to push the ball into Grand Valley territory - as Aspen took a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first quarter. A personal-foul penalty against Aspen extended the already-lengthy drive.
That rather effortless march was emblematic of what followed, as the Skiers tacked on a pair of scores before halftime. Each drive ate up big chunks of the clock.
Quinn Morehead hauled in an 11-yard scoring pass from Rex Christensen with 31 seconds left in the first and Ufkes burst in for a 1-yard TD run late in the second quarter to make it 21-0 at halftime. The drives covered 6:11 and 4:51, respectively.
By the time the teams disappeared into the locker room for intermission, Ufkes had already racked up 176 yards on 25 carries. On the flip side, Grand Valley had managed just 25 yards and one first down as a team.
Christensen padded Aspen's lead with 6:30 left in the third quarter, bootlegging and then sprinting for a 7-yard touchdown run. A bad snap led to a failed extra-point attempt, leaving the score at 27-0.
While Aspen slowed its pace just a bit in the second half, the Cardinals threatened to score just once. They moved the ball down to the Skiers' 20-yard line on a possession late in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over on downs.
The Cardinals managed just 110 yards on offense - 30 on the ground and 80 through the air. Allowing all but 25 of those yards in the second half, Skiers coach Mike Sirko would have liked to see his team sustain its intensity throughout the game.
"The defense stuck to its guns and played hard," he said. "It's one of those games where I think they learned something. We have to put two halves together. Not just our defense, but our offense, too. I'm proud we got a 'W.' Now we've got to move on to next week."
The Skiers forced two turnovers - a fumble recovery by Ufkes and an interception by Daniel Schwartz.
On offense, Aspen racked up 360 yards and punted just once.
Christensen finished with 74 yards on 6-of-12 passing. Morehead caught three balls for 40 yards. Dan Ryerson finished with 26 yards on nine carries.
Jerrod Busch, forced to pass late in the game, wound up with 80 yards and an interception on 8-of-18 passing. Omar Melendrez caught one ball for 28 yards to lead the Grand Valley receiving corps and Caleb Lenard's 18 yards on nine carries led the ground game. Anthony Rhoads chipped in 16 yards on nine carries.
The Cardinals dropped to 2-3 overall and to 0-2 in the 2A Western Slope League with the loss.
Aspen, now 2-0 in the 2A WSL, takes its No. 1 ranking to rival Basalt next Friday, while Grand Valley looks to rebound against visiting Gunnison.