Football: Pivotal game awaits Aspen in Carbondale | AspenTimes.com

Football: Pivotal game awaits Aspen in Carbondale

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen head football coach Mike Sirko admits he has not paid much attention to all the playoff tiebreaker scenarios – and the confusion that is sure to ensue should his Skiers lose Friday in Carbondale.

His focus is simple: Just win, baby.

“A lot of times, people usually are in or out of it by now,” the coach said Thursday. “You know, we have a great opportunity. … To be in a position to still be playing for something is pretty exciting.”

And a bit fortunate, considering their recent struggles. The Skiers won four straight and outscored opponents, 126-55, in the weeks before Oct. 21’s home tilt against Coal Ridge. That contest ended in heartache, as the Titans returned an interception for a touchdown in the final minute to pull out a 21-14 win.

Things started out promisingly for Aspen in last week’s de facto 2A Western Slope league championship against Olathe. The Skiers orchestrated a five-minute, first-quarter scoring drive, then cornerback/receiver Quinn Morehead picked off a pass and returned it nearly 50 yards for a touchdown, giving the home team an early 14-0 advantage.

Aspen (6-3 overall, 4-2 league) was done in by a string of miscues, however – notably a four-play stretch in which it turned the ball over three times – and could do little to slow Pirates tailback Cole Grett, who rushed for 177 yards in the first half and 213 total.

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The Skiers wound up falling, 40-21, dropping games to Coal Ridge and Olathe in back-to-back weeks for consecutive seasons.

Aspen regrouped with a 48-0 win over Roaring Fork to close out the 2010 regular season. The Skiers faithful is hoping for a repeat performance tonight.

Booking a trip to the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season will be no easy task. The Rams, who lost four of their first five games, rebounded with a string of impressive wins – notably a 28-7 rout of Coal Ridge on Sept. 23 and a 23-22 win over Olathe on Oct. 7.

They topped Grand Valley, 34-21, on the road last week.

“The kids believe in what they’re doing right now [at Roaring Fork], and that’s a powerful thing,” Sirko said. “They’ve really been improving as the season goes on. … We’ll have to come out and execute the things we do well and hope the other team can’t stop us.”

This game undoubtedly will hinge on the Skiers’ ability to hang onto the ball. In the last two games alone, freshman signal caller Tucker Beirne has thrown six interceptions.

“It’s like I told him last week: ‘You’re a veteran now. Have some fun and enjoy it out there,'” Sirko said. “I just want him to play within himself and be a game manager.

“We had a good week of practice. Now, we just need to go and lay the cards out tomorrow.”

Chaos could be in the cards should Aspen come up short. If the Skiers lose, a scenario exists in which as many as four teams could wind up tied for second place in the Slope with 4-3 league records, creating a mess for athletic directors and seeding committees.

If Aspen wins, it will improve to 5-2 and lock up second place outright.

“Losing two in a row, we’re down just a bit,” Sirko admitted. “But, like I told the kids, we have an opportunity to rectify what we’ve done in the past.

“It’s pretty much like a playoff game right now. It’s going to be an exciting night.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com