Aspen High football faces Delta to open Western Slope League play |

Aspen High football faces Delta to open Western Slope League play

Aspen football practice on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Leading up to the football season, there was plenty of talk about how difficult the Class 2A Western Slope League was going to be. If the first month or so of the season has been any indication, the hype is real.

Now, it’s time to see which of the six teams will rise to the top as WSL play gets underway Friday.

“Kudos to the league,” Aspen High School football coach Travis Benson said. “It is, in my opinion, if not the best league in the state, it’s easily the second-best league in the state. I think, in the end, you are going to see this league very well-represented in the state championship run.”

Of the three games to open WSL play this week, the Skiers (3-1 overall) have what looks to be the feature game when they play at league newcomer Delta (3-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. Both teams sit just outside the top 10 in the latest poll. Aspen has an RPI of 14 this week while Delta is No. 9.

It’s a game that will most likely have a significant impact on each team’s playoff chances. The Skiers hope to get back to the postseason for the second straight year, while Delta is trying to forget about a disappointing 4-5 campaign in 2017. Prior to last fall, the Panthers had won at least eight games each year since 2012.

“Come Monday it’s time to take a step forward and prepare for one week at a time, and this week just happens to be Delta,” Benson said. “We had a good week of practice. All I’ve asked out of them is that one step forward each week. I feel like we did it, and the kids know how to prepare at this point.”

Under longtime coach Ben Johnson, Delta continues to have one of the better run games on the Western Slope. Junior Cody Sauve has a team-high 269 yards rushing, but only a single touchdown. If the Panthers have a downfall, it’s their modest 22.5 points per game average this season.

Even with the eight points scored in a loss at Bayfield, the Skiers are averaging 37 points a contest this season. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Ward is over the 1,000-yard mark in passing through four games and has 10 touchdowns to go with only four interceptions. Noah Hollander and Max Ufkes lead a deep and talented receiving unit, while the 1-2 punch of running backs Trey Fabrocini and Jonathan Woodrow has been extremely effective.

The AHS offense will need to keep this up to get past a Delta team that played in the Class 2A state semifinals only two seasons ago. The Panthers’ only loss this season is to a currently undefeated Salida team ranked No. 7 in the state.

“They stretch you vertically, but their run game is something to be reckoned with,” Benson said of Delta. “They have executed very well. They beat some very good football teams and we are excited to go down and open up what I call for the boys the second quarter of the season.”

The other 2A WSL games this week include Rifle (4-0) at Coal Ridge (1-3) on Friday and Basalt (4-0) at Moffat County (2-2) on Saturday.