Aspen football beats Coal Ridge on senior day, will face Basalt for WSL title
It was homecoming. It was senior day. It was the Aspen High School football team’s playoff life on the line. It was a shot at the league title on the line.
So, don’t hold it against AHS senior Noah Hollander if he may have shed a tear or two after Friday’s game, a 37-13 win over Coal Ridge on the AHS turf.
“We could have executed a little better tonight, but it was definitely a good one,” Hollander said. “I’m happy we were able to win our homecoming game, because it’s been a while. I know it means a lot to all of us seniors because all the underclassmen were working their butts off to make sure we got this win tonight. It just feels really good.”
Most importantly, the win gets the No. 10-ranked Skiers to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Class 2A Western Slope League play with one game remaining in the regular season. For Aspen, that game will be next week at Basalt, where a win would give AHS the outright league title.
Basalt, which entered the week a perfect 7-0 and No. 4 in 2A, lost 35-14 at No. 7 Rifle on Friday. That is the same Rifle team that Aspen stunned a week ago when the Bears were undefeated and No. 3 in the state.
This means next week’s game in Basalt will be plenty interesting.
“You got a great Basalt team ahead of you and we have a lot of work to do,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “I can’t speak for them. All I can say is they will be prepared. I guarantee you. And in rivalry games you can throw all the stats and all that out of the window.”
To get to this point, Aspen first had to get by Coal Ridge, which Benson called a “trap game” following last week’s big win at Rifle. It looked easy early, with sophomore quarterback Tyler Ward finding Hollander for a touchdown pass and catch from about 37 yards out for an 8-0 lead.
However, Coal Ridge answered right back with a long drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes of clock, a short Adrian Garcia touchdown run making it 8-6 after a failed conversion. Aspen led 16-6 after a quarter when Ward found junior Max Ufkes from 26 yards.
The teams went to halftime with that same score after both offenses struggled to find rhythm in the second quarter.
“The kids played hard, and it’s hard when you have those little bit of distractions,” Benson said. “The first half, they kept the ball and they held the ball and they kept it away from our offense, which is a good game plan.”
Aspen got it moving again in the second half. The AHS lead grew to 24-6 after a 30-yard touchdown run by junior Jonathan Woodrow midway through the quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Coal Ridge got it back with a short Oscar Salazar run, but Aspen quickly answered when Ward found Hollander for a second time, this one from 35 yards out.
Junior Trey Fabrocini’s 11-yard touchdown run with 2:29 to play put the game to rest.
“I’m very proud of the kids. A lot of distractions, a lot of adversity overcome during homecoming week,” Benson said. “The biggest game of the year is the game after your biggest game. So it was a trap game. Coal Ridge played hard. Those kids have a lot of fight and they are going to be good down the road.”
After the game, the seniors got together at midfield for photos with the coaches. Much like the last win over Rifle, it was a reason to celebrate. But the team also is ready to move past both games with a big one looming this week at Basalt.
“I’ve been a water boy ever since I was little. I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since I was 5,” AHS senior Cooper Johnson said of senior day. “Really, we took it in that one night and then we set our goals for Coal Ridge. And now we are setting our goals for Basalt. We won, but we just look for the week ahead.”
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.