Aspen football rolls in season opener
ASPEN – Two mishandled extra-point attempts.After Friday’s season opener, in which his Skiers routed out-manned and overmatched visitor Lake County, botched snaps were all head coach Mike Sirko could criticize.Miscues were scarce on a night when his starting quarterback was perfect, his first-team defense surrendered just one first down – it came in the third quarter – his team jumped out to a 34-0 lead after little more than a quarter and a running clock was instituted shortly after the second half kickoff. Aspen, which hasn’t lost a game at home in two-plus seasons and counting, rolled to a 49-0 victory. “This isn’t always going to happen, so I told the kids to enjoy this time,” Sirko said. “We’ve still got a ways to go but in the first game, what else can I say, it doesn’t get better than a W.”This one was never in doubt. Tailback Nicky Ufkes scored on an 18-yard counter up the right sideline less than three minutes into the game to give Aspen the early cushion. The Skiers scored on their first four possessions, which all started in Panthers territory.Senior Anderson Cole hit receiver Walker Moriarty on a curl route for an 8-yard touchdown with 7:14 remaining in the first to stretch the lead to 14. Less than 6 minutes later, the duo hooked up again on an 11-yard pass that gave Aspen a four-touchdown advantage.Despite seeing limited action, Cole was 6-for-6 for 47 yards with two touchdowns. Moriarty caught five passes.”This feels good. I’ve been working hard and the team’s been working hard,” Moriarty said. “This is the best I’ve ever seen [the offense operate]. … We’ve got the blocking down and the passing was good.”The defense was no slouch, either. Aspen’s “Black Shirts” forced three-and-outs on seven of Lake County’s eight possessions in the first 24 minutes. An anemic Panthers attack lost 15 yards in the first half.Their lone first down in the half came on their third possession, when punter Cameron Garcia took the snap, tucked the ball and barreled up the middle of the field for 23 yards. The drive was cut short, however, when, on third-and-16 with about 41⁄2 minutes left in the first, Skiers cornerback Quinn Morehead picked off a Nick Federico pass and returned it 50 yards for the score.Fullback Grant Huber converted on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone to put Aspen on top, 34-0, 5 seconds into the second quarter. The first-team offense was then relegated to the sidelines for the game’s duration.Special teams padded the lead from there. Senior Carl Spiroff sprinted untouched into the Lake County backfield on a fourth down deep in the Panthers’ end and blocked the attempted punt into the end zone. A Lake County player fell on the loose ball for a safety, stretching Aspen’s lead to 36-0 with about 9 minutes remaining before halftime.Ufkes, who has the difficult task of replacing departed back Beau Seguin, who rushed for 1,500 yards and scored a team-record 32 touchdowns last fall, provided some fireworks early in the second half. He returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a score. The junior also rushed for 68 yards on four carries.Junior varsity tailback Casey Hornburg, who led the team with 17 carries and 87 yards on the ground in his first high school game, scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 7:45 remaining in the game to give the Skiers a 49-0 advantage. The run finished off a drive that started at the Panthers’ 15 following another mishandled Lake County punt attempt.”This was a great opportunity for every kid to get the chance to play,” Sirko said. “[Games like this are positive] as long as we don’t play down to the level of the opposition. We did that.”And dominated the Panthers for a second consecutive season. The Skiers jumped out to a 49-0 lead in last year’s season opener in Leadville and went on to win, 65-6.”It was good first game for us,” the coach added. “We need to get more playing time for the first team, but I’m sure that won’t be a problem real soon.”The Skiers next travel to Rangely on Friday.firstname.lastname@example.org
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