Aspen explodes against Hotchkiss
Aspen’s Whit Fuller faked out the Hotchkiss defense – and even his coach.The senior lined up to punt one minute into the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-4 from the Bulldogs’ 43-yard line. Fuller fielded the long snap cleanly and surprised everyone when he took off running, following blockers 27 yards down the right sideline. Two plays later, quarterback Harry Maniloff found receiver Matt Beirne in the back left corner of the end zone. The Skiers (2-5 overall, 2-3 2A Western Slope) pulled ahead 17-6 and went on to beat Hotchkiss, 24-14.”That wasn’t called, it was just Whit being Whit,” said drenched Skiers head coach Travis Benson, who was doused with the cooler moments before the final whistle. “Whit can do some magical things. You never know with him.”Fuller wasn’t the only Skiers player to bring the Aspen faithful to their feet. Sophomore Beau Seguin knocked down a pass by Hotchkiss quarterback Johnny Pieper on a fourth down deep inside Aspen territory. On the ensuing play, Maniloff faked a handoff, then fired a pass to a streaking Beirne down the right sideline. Beirne caught the pass in stride and rumbled 50 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the Hotchkiss 20. “It was a great play call, we had awesome blocking, and Harry hit me right in the hands,” Beirne said. “The play took time to develop, and the line gave Harry time. “It was nice to see some green.”Junior tailback Tucker Eason gave Aspen its first lead when he plowed into the end zone from one yard out to push the Skiers ahead, 10-6.Aspen again stiffened with eight minutes remaining in the fourth. Pieper completed a pass down the right sideline, but the Skiers forced the fumble. Senior Dillon Morehead emerged from the bottom of the pile with the ball moments later. Maniloff converted the turnover into points three plays later when he took a third-down snap and rushed 35 yards straight through the middle of the Hotchkiss defense and into the end zone. Aspen took a 24-6 lead. “The defense was outstanding and was able to stop the run,” Benson said. “The first score they got was on penalties, and we gave them the second one.”Seguin picked off his second pass of the game with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth. Moments later, Maniloff handed the ball right back to the Bulldogs. Maniloff, in his haste to get off a pass and avoid a linebacker who blitzed unblocked into the backfield, lofted a ball downfield that Hotchkiss intercepted at the Aspen 16. Hotchkiss fullback Ethan Coe took a handoff on a first down sweep and eluded the Skiers defense on his way to the end zone. The Bulldogs converted their two-point try to cut the lead to 24-14 with 3:57 remaining. Aspen recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.”This means the world to us,” Beirne said. “We came out so much more intense [in the second half], and we blew it wide open.”Hotchkiss, which had the game’s first offensive possession, strung together a 18-play, 61-yard drive that bled 6 1/2 minutes off the clock. Pieper’s sneak from one yard out gave Hotchkiss the 6-0 lead. The Bulldogs converted three third downs as well as a fourth down on the drive. They came up short on a third-and-14 from the Aspen 32, but received a fresh set of downs after a face-mask call.Fuller, who missed a 37-yard field goal with 8:13 left in the second quarter, converted a 27-yarder as time expired in the first half. Seguin’s interception at the Hotchkiss 35 set up the score.In the second half, Aspen exploded, fueled by big plays on both sides of the ball.”I told the guys to stay with it,” Benson said. “All we needed was a little momentum, and we took off.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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