Aspen football rolls through defending champion Rifle, Basalt falls to Moffat

Aspen High School quarterback Porter Lee looks for an open receiver during their football game against Rifle High School on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in Aspen. The Skiers won.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The Class 2A Western Slope League football hierarchy took a mighty shift in the openers on Friday night, led by Aspen High School’s 34-19 rout of defending spring state champion Rifle on the wet AHS turf. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Skiers.

“We had to just worry about ourselves and play our football,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “Incredibly proud of these kids. They’ve had a ton of heart and been on the road and fighting and battling and tonight they played for each other.”

It was Aspen’s first home game since its season-opening 42-21 non-league win over Colorado Springs Christian on Aug. 27. That win was followed by three straight non-league road losses to Summit, Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs — all bigger 3A schools — before a somewhat surprising performance against the Bears.

One of the Western Slope’s true powerhouse programs, Rifle went 7-2 in the one-off spring pandemic season and went on to beat The Classical Academy in the 3A championship game. However, despite bringing back most of the roster, the No. 9-ranked Bears fell to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in WSL play after Friday’s loss to the Skiers.

“The coaching staff did a great job prepping this week and getting them ready,” Benson said. “Rifle is a good football team. A lot of respect for them.”

Aspen jumped out to a 21-0 lead despite most of the game being played in the rain and held at least a two-possession edge until the finish.

“We got some opportunities there early that we were able to capitalize on. We played more disciplined football,” said Benson, who also liked what he saw from the AHS defense. “They were playing just with a hunger and a passion. It’s good to see. They’ve been gradually building over the last couple of weeks and finding themselves and definitely the defense played well.”

While only 2-3 overall, Aspen’s 1-0 mark in WSL play has the team right back in the mix in terms of a possible league title and playoff berth.

Along with Aspen shaking up the early league standings, Moffat County did the same with a 19-6 win at Basalt on Friday night in what was homecoming for the Longhorns. It was a battle between two of the best teams in 2A, per the rankings, as BHS entered at No. 5 and Moffat County at No. 6.

“They are well coached. The kids play hard. We definitely had some opportunities. We never got the momentum going our way,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “Their kids are definitely disciplined and they play hard. I think we could have coached better, and I think the kids could have played better. But we also have to give a lot of credit to the way they played and the opportunities they took advantage of. We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”

Evan Atkin had all three touchdown runs for the Bulldogs, who led 6-0 at halftime. The Longhorns had a chance to tie the game, and possibly take the lead, with less than a minute to play in the second quarter but fumbled the ball over to Moffat near the goal line, one of many fumbles by both teams on the game.

“Those turnovers are huge,” Frerichs said. “We tell the kids all the time, turnovers are one of the biggest things and we got to take care of the ball.”

Basalt’s only points came with less than six minutes to play, already down 19-0, when Cooper Crawford ran in a touchdown from about 4 yards out.

Basalt, now 4-1 overall and 0-1 in WSL play, will look to regroup next week at Coal Ridge. The Titans lost 63-0 to No. 7 Delta on Friday night, falling to 0-5. The Panthers improved to 4-1 overall and join Aspen and Moffat County with a 1-0 mark in league play.

“We got to regroup and we got to coach better and play better,” Frerichs said. “Most important thing is we want to be in that field of 16 and make state and you never know what is going to happen.”

Next week’s slate also includes Moffat County traveling to Rifle and Aspen hosting Delta for homecoming.

Elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley on Friday, Glenwood Springs hosted Class 3A No. 1 Roosevelt, losing 42-0, and in Class 1A Roaring Fork earned its first win of the season, winning 30-20 at Olathe.


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