Unbeaten Aspen High football returns from ex-ed to face Grand Valley
Even miles from civilization, it’s difficult for a football coach to remove himself from the game. Case in point, Aspen High School head coach Karson Pike while backpacking through the Flat Tops Wilderness last week.
“It’s hard for us at times, especially as coaches, to get out of the game mentality” Pike said. “I was thinking of all kinds of things and dreaming up plays and everything else all trip with no internet service and no film to watch. But it is a good step back, certainly.”
Pike, along with the rest of the Skiers, are coming off a bye because of their experiential education week, which sent the students and coaches alike around the country to take part in various outdoor activities, none of which involved football.
Unlike a normal bye week, AHS didn’t even have the chance to practice at all last week. So Monday’s practice came with a little bit of rust after the long break.
“I’ve had my mind in the playbook for a while, so it hasn’t been that hard (coming back to practice),” said AHS senior Laughlin McIntyre, who spent ex-ed stand-up paddleboarding in Steamboat Springs. “I’ve been thinking about football the whole ex-ed. There was a little bit of a lag coming back from it with most guys, but I think we are back in the groove and ready to play.”
This week it’s been back to business for Aspen. The Skiers are 3-0 and have been one of the big surprises on the Western Slope, considering they’ve only gone 2-7 the past two seasons. Aspen sits just outside the CHSAANow.com top 10 in Class 2A, and debuted at No. 9 in RPI, with the all important ratings percentage index standings coming out for the first time this season.
“We are feeling really good because our past two showings have been really good,” said AHS junior receiver Noah Hollander, who spent his ex-ed week backpacking near San Francisco. “Our defense I think has been getting a lot better. I’m really excited for this game to see what we can do.”
The Skiers return to the field for the first time in two weeks Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup at Class 1A Grand Valley. The Cardinals are 2-1 and coming off a 41-0 win at Roaring Fork last week. Two weeks ago, they suffered their lone loss, a 44-0 defeat at Basalt. Grand Valley beat Vail Christian 49-14 in its season opener.
When the teams met last season, Grand Valley beat Aspen 48-34 en route to a 5-5 season and berth in the 1A state playoffs.
“I would say, after the three opponents we’ve played and then looking at their film, they are probably the most well-rounded team,” Pike said, comparing Grand Valley to Aspen’s first three opponents. “We expect a dogfight. It’s going to be their homecoming game, so there is going to be a lot of hoopla out there. And we didn’t forget they ruined our homecoming last year. So hopefully we can return the favor.”
Aspen turned a lot of heads with its 80-50 win over Middle Park in zero week. It then turned around to shutdown Arvada 44-0 on Sept. 2 before a 40-0 win at Cedaredge on Sept. 8. The win over Cedaredge, which won the 1A state title as recently as 2012, sent the Skiers into its bye week with heads held high.
Now, Aspen looks to shake off the ex-ed rust for Friday’s contest against Grand Valley, its final non-league game.
“It was big for our program,” Pike said of the Cedaredge victory. “Halfway through Tuesday we challenged them and they really started flying around. Wednesday we had a really good practice to clean up those things. The guys even earned their way off the field early with their hustle and their energy. I think they are back into it.”
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For Basalt, one of the preseason frontrunners in the Western Slope League, Friday’s loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy, while Aspen’s loss to the Bulldogs all but eliminates it from postseason contention.