Bittersweet day approaches for AHS football
Aspen Times Staff Writer
When Ben Westfeldt bulled his way into the end zone in the final minutes of Aspen High’s homecoming game against Roaring Fork on Saturday, the Skiers’ entire season was captured in a single play.
As far as points are concerned, the touchdown was insignificant – Roaring Fork won 44-6. Avoiding a shutout was a plus, but that didn’t really matter either. Instead, the touchdown displayed the soul of Aspen High’s football team – it never gives up.
Small in both stature and numbers, the young Skiers have struggled to win. Several starters are freshmen, and most players are on the field the entire game, playing both ways.
Unlike most of their competition, the Skiers don’t enjoy the comfort of reserves. Instead, they have to bear down and tough it out, which they have done all season.
Westfeldt’s touchdown was just another example of the Skiers’ attitude, but it was magnified Saturday, which was both Homecoming and Aspen’s home finale.
Furthermore, it was a game against an undefeated Rams squad that is ranked second in the state in Class 2A.
“Obviously, we couldn’t pick a better worst-case scenario,” AHS coach Tom Goode said last week. “Roaring Fork has what I call the dream team of the century. They’ve got a tremendous offense, some great weapons in their backs and receivers, their quarterback is good and their line is good.
“But we’re coming in with our chins up.”
That the Skiers did, staying with Roaring Fork for most of the first half. But, as has been the case all season, time caught up with AHS, and the Rams scored two quick touchdowns before halftime for a 21-0 lead.
“There’s not much you can do against a team like that,” said Skiers tailback and safety Dusty Stutsman, a senior.
But for the Skiers, victory doesn’t only come with winning, it comes with never giving up.
“I asked our kids to do the best they could, and they played up a level,” an emotional Goode said after the game. “The guys played their hearts out. I’m proud of them.”
For Stutsman, Westfeldt and the rest of the seniors, the game was hard to swallow, but not because they lost.
“It’s sad,” said a teary-eyed Stutsman. “We’ve all been playing together so long, and it’s coming down to the end.”
While the season is coming to an end, the AHS football program is just getting started. Canceled years ago, the program was revived three years ago. This is Aspen’s second season playing at the varsity level. The seniors, as Goode noted, are at the core of the revival, and the future.
“Our seniors today are the foundation of this program,” he said. “Because of them, Aspen has a program right now.”
And for the seven seniors, it has been a constant uphill battle. Turnout has been low, and recruiting classmates was difficult.
“Our school just offers so many other sports,” Stutsman said.
The number of alternative activities in the valley have not only reduced football turnout, but have even prevented some from playing.
Senior Kyle Broughton ruptured his spleen and broke his knee in a ski accident last winter, knocking him out for the football season.
Dustin Hite, a junior, said the program suffers from additional shortcomings caused by a physically active student body.
“No kids are fat in Aspen,” Hite said, making it difficult to block massive players on opposing teams.
But with the Three Rivers little league football program increasing in popularity, Stutsman feels the AHS program will continue to grow.
“The future looks good,” he said.
Goode also feels things are headed in the right direction and believes a future conference title is not just a pipe dream.
“We’re going to get after it,” he said. “You have to have a goal.”
Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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