Football: Aspen hoping to bounce back in Olathe | AspenTimes.com

Football: Aspen hoping to bounce back in Olathe

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – After stumbling to an 0-4 start, it seems that the Olathe football team bears little resemblance to its standout clubs of years past.

Good luck trying to convince Aspen High’s coach of that notion, however.

“They’re still the defending league champs,” Mike Sirko asserted Wednesday. “We haven’t beaten them since that miraculous first year (in 2007). They’ve pretty much had their way with us.

“They’re not the same big, physical Olathe, sure, but they’ve got a lot of upperclassmen, so I believe they have some leadership. … I feel like they’re a wounded rhino, and they say a rhino is nastiest when it’s wounded.”

The Skiers also are wounded after a humbling trip to Bayfield last week. Aspen fumbled the ball six times, lost four and surrendered four Wolverines touchdown runs of 50-plus yards in a 27-10 defeat. The loss dropped the Skiers to 3-1 and out of The Denver Post’s latest 2A poll.

Despite the return of standouts Casey Hornburg (tailback) and Luke Rider (quarterback) from injury, the Skiers struggled to move the ball all night. Hornburg could muster just 57 yards on the ground, while Rider completed just four of nine passes for 57 yards.

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“Let’s just say we were rusty,” Sirko said. “You can’t put the ball on the ground. It destroys momentum, … and the chance to be successful is eliminated.

“We tried to throw last week, but we never had the ball that much, to be honest. We’d fumble, then have a second-and-15. We’re a short-intermediate-route team – everybody knows that. It was hard to get any rhythm.”

A trip to Olathe likely is just the salve for a struggling offense – at least on paper. The Pirates are being outscored 126-45.

The Olathe offense could muster just six points in Friday’s loss at Coal Ridge. Troy Rose rushed for 109 yards on 26 carries, and quarterback Trenton Jole was intercepted once, misfired on six of eight passes and amassed just 18 yards through the air for the Pirates, who squandered an early lead and fell, 13-6, in overtime.

The final tally was deceiving, Sirko said.

“If you watch the film, I felt they controlled the game,” he said. “Coal Ridge would fumble the snap, then their quarterback would pick it up and run 7 yards. Stuff like that.

“We haven’t discussed (the 0-4 record) with our kids. They know. All I do is remind them that they’re still Olathe.”

The Pirates have dominated this Slope rivalry in years past, winning four straight by considerable margins.

Aspen struck first in last year’s battle between first-place squads, jumping out to a 14-0, first-quarter lead on a short touchdown run and an interception return.

A rash of turnovers caused the Skiers to sputter, and the Pirates regrouped. After squaring the game in the second quarter, Olathe caught Aspen off guard with an onside kick and tacked on six more points before the break.

The Skiers turned the ball over three times in a four-play stretch in the third quarter, and the Pirates never looked back, cruising to a 40-21 win.

Aspen last topped Olathe in October 2007 with a dramatic game-

winning 28-yard field goal. The formula for success that night against the then-No. 4 Pirates: opportunistic defense that forced seven turnovers and a bruising ground game led by Tucker Eason, who consistently kept the chains moving with 148 yards on 48 carries.

The game plan will look similar Friday.

“We’ve got to get better on offense. The defense is spending a little too much time on the field right now,” Sirko said. “We need to control the football – that’ll be the difference in the game. Running the football is our thing this year. We have to make some plays for Casey, and he needs to make some plays for us.”

Because of the emergence of Bayfield and Grand Valley – the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, respectively, in this week’s poll, which will square off Friday in Parachute – every conference game is a must-win, Sirko said.

“We’re going to get three teams in from this league, and I’m sure it’s going to come down to the last week,” he added. “We have seniors who have never beaten Olathe. They understand the importance. This is a great opportunity for our guys.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

• Aspen at Olathe, 7 p.m.

• Basalt at Gunnison, 7 p.m.

• Bayfield at Grand Valley, 7 p.m.

• Pagosa Springs at Coal Ridge, 7 p.m.