Aspen-Basalt football rivalry returns tonight | AspenTimes.com

Aspen-Basalt football rivalry returns tonight

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The Aspen Skiers gather before their recent victory over Coal Ridge. The Skiers wil host rival Basalt at 7 p.m. Friday.

Rivalry football games are all about one big thing, according to veteran Aspen High School coach Mike Sirko.

He's participated in hundreds of rivalry games in a 38-year prep coaching career — from Hotchkiss, to Colorado Springs Rampart, to Colorado Springs Doherty, to Aspen High School.

"The 'want-to' factor is the difference in a rivalry game," Sirko said this week as the playoff-bound Aspen Skiers got ready for tonight's 7 p.m. game against upper valley rival Basalt.

"Last year, I felt like they (Longhorns) wanted it more than we did," Sirko said of a frustrating 7-3 loss to Basalt last year. The Skiers had beaten Basalt in the first five years of his coaching tenure in Aspen.

"But last year, they wanted it more," Sirko said. "Again, it's a matter of who wants it more."

He said the Skiers will be out to add momentum as they head into the Class 2A state playoffs next week. Aspen finished third in the Western League this year, regardless of the outcome of today's Aspen-Basalt game.

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"We're excited about … the playoffs. But first, this game (tonight) will be an exciting game to play. The bottom line is we've got to be ready. Basalt has two wins a row," Sirko said.

He said the Longhorns (2-6, 2-4 n league) are running an I-formation offense similar to that of the Skiers (5-3, 3-2).

"They have a strong senior class … a lot of senior pride," Sirko said. "So our seniors have got to step up. And the juniors have to support those seniors."

Aspen junior Ryan Fitzgerald enters tonight's game as the leading rusher in the conference at 1,433 yards (and 11 touchdowns).

Teammate Luke O'Callaghan, of the Skiers, is the leading tackler in the conference with a total of 79 total tackles, nearly 10 per game.

dstrode@aspentimes.com