Fall prep wrap 2017: Saying goodbye to the fall high school sports season | AspenTimes.com

Fall prep wrap 2017: Saying goodbye to the fall high school sports season

With the chairlifts soon to be moving again — does Mother Nature know opening day is less than a week away? — it's time to say goodbye to the fall high school sports season.

It was a wild few months, highlighted by the resurgence of Aspen football and volleyball and another historic season for Basalt football. Unfortunately, I don't have the space to recap each team or make note of every deserving player, so I'll have to keep it to the essentials.

These are not serious honors and they don't come with any hardware. Although, I'll happily give you a high five should we bump into each other on the hill.

As I wrote a year ago when I penned something similar, feel free to disagree with me. As a journalist, I want to remain as unbiased as possible and make the fairest choices. So, let's get on with it, shall we?

Note: All statistics were taken from MaxPreps. Gender was not a deciding factor in any category.

ATHLETE OF THE FALL: R.J. Peshek, Aspen football

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Is there really anything to debate here? Aspen's senior quarterback was the beating heart of a football team that shrugged off back-to-back 2-7 seasons to finish 8-2 overall in Karson Pike's second season as head coach.

Peshek's numbers were off the charts ridiculous. He passed for 2,608 yards and threw for 30 (THIRTY!) touchdowns with only seven interceptions. If that wasn't enough, he led the Skiers with 765 yards rushing and 16 more touchdowns on the ground. His numbers were among the best in Class 2A, regardless of what stat you are looking at.

No offense to the rest of the players, but Aspen doesn't make the playoffs without Peshek. He was also an important piece of the team's defense.

Also considered: Noah Hollander (AHS football), Noah Williams (BHS football), Mary Williams (AHS volleyball), Jake Bassi (AHS soccer), Dillon Leasure (AHS tennis), Morgan Ash (BHS softball)

COACH OF THE FALL: Karson Pike, Aspen football

Deciding the top coach was much closer than deciding the top athlete, but I had to go with Pike. After losing only one varsity senior from the 2016 team, it was easy to believe the Skiers would be better in Year 2 under Pike. But their season ended up shattering everyone's expectations.

Aspen looked nothing like the team from a year ago. The offense was electrifying with Peshek and Hollander, the junior receiver who finished with 1,211 yards and 14 touchdowns receiving. The defense was both shaky and steady, holding its own in crunch time.

Aspen's only losses came against Basalt on homecoming and to The Classical Academy in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. It was Aspen's first postseason appearance since 2013.

Also considered: Carl Frerichs (BHS football), Bailey Holmes (AHS volleyball)

TEAM OF THE FALL: Basalt football

What does a team do following its first league title in more than 30 years? It wins another league title and makes history in the process.

In Year 10 under head coach Carl Frerichs, Basalt finished 9-2, a program record for wins, and won a Class 2A playoff game for the first time in school history. After a season-opening loss at Class 3A powerhouse Rifle, the Longhorns won nine straight games and faced little competition in the 2A Western Slope League.

Senior transfer Noah Williams was a star at running back, finishing the season with 1,422 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Trevor Reuss was a calming presence, finishing with 1,075 yards passing with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Do-it-all senior Raul Torres was the leading receiver with 33 catches for 520 yards and four touchdowns.

Also considered: Aspen football, Aspen volleyball, Aspen golf, Aspen tennis

SURPRISE OF THE FALL: Aspen and Basalt cross country

Neither team qualified any runners for the state meet in 2016 and had so many new faces in 2017 there wasn't much in the way of expectations. But as the season went on, a group made predominantly of freshmen girls emerged to lead the way.

Aspen qualified a full team of seven runners for the state meet in 2017, and five of them were freshmen. Leading the charge were Kylie Kenny and Kendall Clark, with Edie Sherlock, Macy Hopkinson and Maggie Woodrow close behind.

Basalt just missed out on going to state as a team, but did get two runners there as individuals, including freshman Sierra Bower.

Safe to say, neither team should be surprising anyone next fall, at least when it comes to the girls.

Also considered: Aspen volleyball, Aspen football, Basalt volleyball

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT OF THE FALL: Aspen golf at regionals

Aspen football's insane 80-point showing in its season opener against Middle Park was a close second, but what the Aspen boys did at their 3A golf regional was beyond comprehension.

The Skiers had a number of players who could win on any given day, but never did it all come together like it did that day. AHS won the regional tournament by 22 strokes and had all four golfers finish under par. Senior Carter Hall was the big surprise in winning the regional tournament, while junior Dawson Holmes was a shot back in second place and juniors Dominic Lanese and Colter Zwieg finished tied for third, two shots back of Hall.

Also considered: Aspen football's 80-point game

TEAM TO WATCH FOR IN 2018: Aspen volleyball

The Skiers could be set up for a big season in 2018 on the volleyball court. In their first season under head coach Bailey Holmes, an assistant under former coach Matt Bergdahl, Aspen went 13-8 overall and finished above .500 for the first time since 2008.

Even bigger than the overall record, Aspen made a postseason appearance for the first time since playing in a district tournament in 2011. Aspen will lose a couple of seniors, but otherwise should bring back the core of its team from this fall. On top of that list are all-conference selections Mary Williams and Gaia Murphy, which will both be seniors in 2018.

Aspen volleyball has every right to aim for a return to the postseason next year.

Also considered: Aspen golf, Basalt soccer

acolbert@aspentimes.com