Praise keeps coming for Skiers football | AspenTimes.com

Praise keeps coming for Skiers football

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN A 7-3 record, the first postseason berth in 33 years, a proclamation from the mayor – it’s good to be a member of the Aspen football program these days. The accolades keep pouring in. A total of 12 players from the 2A Western Slope’s second-place team recently garnered postseason recognition. Leading the way was record-setting back Tucker Eason, Cory Parker, Travis VanDomelen, Jeff Gerbaz, Walker Hill and Josh Gartner – all first-team all-conference selections. Quarterback Anderson Cole, Nick Ufkes, Brian Westerlind, Dillon Williams, Nick Codd and Ryan Games were honorable mentions.”I love these kids, and I’m impressed with what we had happen here,” head coach Mike Sirko said Tuesday. “I’m glad we got to the playoffs. I’m excited the kids got an opportunity to feel what it is like.”The major catalyst behind Aspen’s state run was Eason, whose 1,699 yards rushing were the second-highest total in all of 2A. He averaged nearly 23 carries per game, racked up more than seven yards per attempt and scored a team-best 20 touchdowns. The team’s second-leading rusher, junior VanDomelen, rushed for 325 yards and three scores. Eason’s success wasn’t confined to offense. He led the Skiers with 105 tackles – 15 for a loss – and compiled four sacks. “He’s right up there with the all-time great players I’ve ever coached,” Aspen defensive coordinator Ruben Burbach said. “He could’ve played with us at Doherty (5A) and done well. He’s a good one, there’s no doubt.”While the Slope does not officially name a league player of the year, Eason did receive another significant honor; he was one of two Slope players selected to participate in Colorado’s all-star game in June. While his statistics are striking, Eason’s most impressive contributions may have come off the field, Sirko said.”He’s the ultimate leader. … [He’s got] all things going for him. The leadership, the drive, the commitment – we’re not even talking about football yet,” Sirko said. “He put the football team on his back and pretty much rode with it.”He’s a great ambassador for the football team and the school. If anyone asked about the Aspen High School football program, I want that guy talking.”Another person who assumed a leadership role was Parker. The senior, an all-state-caliber basketball player who put on pads for the first time in 2007, proved he could excel on the gridiron like he does the hardwood. His 20 catches for 250 yards led the team, and he scored five touchdowns.On the defensive line, Parker racked up 30 tackles, three sacks and batted down six balls. He, Hill, who led the team with six sacks, Gartner, a linebacker who piled up 75 tackles and recovered four fumbles, and Ufkes, the 5-feet-4-inch freshman corner who blocked two kicks against Eaton in the playoffs, stifled opposing offenses. The Skiers outscored opponents, 274-187.”[Parker is] the kind of kid who was only going to play one year but wants to play four years of college basketball,” Sirko said. “He took a big chance, and that’s another thing to love about the kid. We were very fortunate to have another leader in that class.”While his statistics – 650 yards passing, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions – weren’t spectacular, Cole helped guide a Skiers offense that scored 40 or more points four times. The sophomore quarterback will be one of 14 players with varsity experience returning next season.”You can’t replace Tucker and Cory and Jeff, but we have some capable players,” Burbach said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.””It was a heck of a turnaround, with a 7-3 record and a trip to state. The seniors left a legacy that’s going to be tough to follow,” Sirko added. “Our goal is to get back to the show and make some noise and try to win the league title. As far as I’m concerned, that will always be realistic.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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