ASPEN - As Daniel Ryerson jogged to the sideline after finding the end zone for a fourth time Friday night, a familiar face was there to greet him.
Injured tailback Nicky Ufkes shed his crutches and leapt into Ryerson's arms.
Ryerson picked up his former backfield mate - and the Skiers - on this night. The senior teamed with halfback Casey Hornburg, a duo referred to as "Thunder and Lightning," to amass more than 300 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Shorthanded Aspen was efficient, if not flashy, against visiting Cedaredge. The top-ranked Skiers led, 20-0, at the half and improved to 7-0 with a 37-7 rout of the Bruins.
"There were a lot of new faces out there, but the kids stepped up and played hard," Skiers head coach Mike Sirko said. "In the beginning we had to make a few adjustments, but they rallied around one another. That's what it's all about."
In addition to missing Ufkes, who tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in last week's game in Basalt, Aspen was without quarterback Rex Christensen. The senior, who suffered a stinger against the Longhorns, was wearing jeans and a letterman's jacket Friday.
Taylor Mayer, who is battling a nagging ankle injury of his own, took Christensen's place under center. The senior did not have to do much on this night, save for turning and handing off to Ryerson and Hornburg.
Hornburg, a sophomore, provided an early spark when, on the game's opening drive, he burst through a large hole and sprinted 45 yards untouched to the end zone.
With little more than a minute remaining in the opening quarter, Ryerson took a hand-off and barreled into a large pile of players for what appeared to be a nominal gain; he somehow stayed on his feet, bounced outside and rumbled 73 yards up the left sideline for the score.
"I definitely haven't ran that fast in a while," Ryerson joked. "The O-line did their job, and the rest came easy tonight."
It sure looked that way. Hornburg eclipsed the 100-yard mark before halftime, and Ryerson (84 yards) was not far behind. He scored for a second time just 12 seconds before the break, diving in from the 1-yard line.
The effort capped a nine-play drive that covered 89 yards, but took just 90 seconds. The biggest play came from Mayer, who dropped back and lofted a ball up the near sideline that receiver Mike Schwartz pulled down for a 33-yard gain, setting up the Skiers at the Cedaredge 12.
Mayer was 3 of 7 for 50 yards in the game.
"I really felt Taylor stepped up, and Daniel and Casey did a nice job of carrying the mail for us," Sirko said.
Ryerson provided some more highlight reel-caliber plays in the second half. He capped a 97-yard, 10-play drive in the third with a 46-yard touchdown run, stretching the lead to 27-0 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Later, after Daniel Munger tacked on three points with a 31-yard field goal, Ryerson shook free for a 22-yard touchdown run - his fourth of the night.
"Why hasn't he run like this before?" Christensen said to Ufkes on the sideline.
Such an effort was not needed with Ufkes carrying the load early this season. But everything has changed since last week.
Ufkes, one of the state's top backs regardless of classification, is slated to undergo surgery Oct. 27. He said doctors expect recovery to take anywhere from nine to 12 months.
Now, Ryerson is a featured back instead of a second option, a role cemented after his performance Friday. He finished with 192 yards on 18 carries.
Hornburg wound up with 123 yards on 12 attempts.
"We've definitely all had to step up. That was the theme this week, to send the message that it's not all about one man," Ryerson said. "I'll take the ball if they give it to me and will try my best."
The Skiers' defense appeared to be at its best Friday, forcing five Bruins punts to open the game. Cedaredge's sixth drive showed promise, but stalled after Aspen's Daniel Schwartz picked off a pass from quarterback Drew Beach.
The Skiers forced three more turnovers in the second half - Joe O'Callaghan recovered a fumble on a kickoff, and Aspen twice stopped the Bruins on fourth down.
Cedaredge (2-5) did manage to avoid the shutout, finding the end zone with 4 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the game on a Carter Wasser's 5-yard run.
Aspen will need a similar effort Friday, when they travel to Peach Valley to take on 5-2 Coal Ridge. The Titans were blanked in Olathe, 43-0, in other action Friday.
"We've got to be prepared," Sirko said. "[Keeping this winning streak going] is all up to whether the kids believe. I know the coaches do."