Aspen football is playoff-bound after senior night rout of Moffat County | AspenTimes.com

Aspen football is playoff-bound after senior night rout of Moffat County

So much of the Aspen High School football team's philosophy revolves around having possession of the ball. In the first half of Friday's regular-season finale against visiting Moffat County, that simply wasn't the case.

"I'd venture to say offensively we had the ball less than three minutes in the first half and I know it was less than 12 snaps," Aspen coach Karson Pike said. "That's not what plays into our hands very well. Getting the ball right away in the second half and being able to go right down and score changed that game pretty quickly."

Needing a win to secure their first playoff appearance since 2013, the Skiers turned a two-point halftime deficit into a rout, winning 58-18 on the AHS turf. The second-half rally means Aspen (8-1 overall) will be one of the 16 teams to find itself in the Class 2A playoff bracket when it is announced Sunday.

Moffat County finished 4-5 on the season and will not be among the playoff teams.

Aspen's trip to the postseason was far from secure after two quarters on Friday. The Bulldogs led 6-0 and had effectively kept the AHS offense on the sideline the entire first quarter. But, as the quarter was coming to a close, Aspen senior quarterback R.J. Peshek dumped the ball off to junior receiver Noah Hollander, who raced 78 yards for a touchdown and 8-6 Aspen lead.

Soon after, an interception by sophomore Max Ufkes led to a Peshek to Ufkes touchdown from 9 yards out and AHS led 16-6 early in the second quarter.

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However, Moffat answered with a slow, methodical touchdown drive, got the ball back via a surprise onside kick, and scored again to lead 18-16 at halftime.

"They were able to convert some long third downs, which was disappointing, even after they dug themselves a hole," Pike said. "Our offense is so much about rhythm. We need the snaps, we need the plays, and once we were able to finally get those plays and really start rolling and get the confidence in and figure out how they were playing us defensively, we certainly got on a roll."

Aspen left no doubt in the second half. The Skiers only needed 48 seconds of the third quarter to reclaim the lead, a 33-yard touchdown pass and catch from Peshek to Hollander making it 24-18 Skiers. A quick three-and-out by Moffat led to a short touchdown run by Aspen sophomore Trey Fabrocini and the rout was on.

After also successfully stealing a possession via an onside kick, Aspen took a 36-18 lead midway through the third quarter when Peshek connected with senior Jordan Hornburg from 35 yards.

"Our motto all year has been start fast, accelerate in the middle, finish strong, and that goes along with our offensive scheme," Pike said. "They obviously wanted it bad enough knowing our second season was on the line and we took care of business."

Aspen finished out its scoring with a 10 yard pass and catch from Peshek to Hollander late in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by sophomore Jonathan Woodrow midway through the fourth quarter, and a 42-yard run by Fabrocini that started the running clock with less than four minutes to play.

Now, the Skiers await the announcement of the 2A playoff bracket on Sunday, where they should land in the nine to 12 seed range. They would most likely play on the road next Friday or Saturday.

"It's huge. Your young guys get an extra week to really learn how to prepare and see what that environment is about," Pike said of making the playoffs. "Second season feels great. We will figure out where we are at come this Sunday and get in the film room, get it broken down and go try to get another victory."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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