Football: Aspen, still riddled with injuries, hopes to bounce back against Meeker
With injuries continuing to take the stage, it’ll be next man up for the Aspen High School football team when it hosts Meeker on Friday night.
“It’s a chance for some more guys to get some game exposure and step into roles and step up and get a good feeling,” AHS coach Travis Benson said, “so when we do get healthy people back we have more people to put into the offense and the defense.”
The Skiers (0-1) opened the season last weekend, losing 37-20 to Class 2A powerhouse Bayfield on the AHS turf. Leading 14-7 at halftime against the 2017 state champions, injuries piled up for Aspen in the second half.
The most notable loss was to junior quarterback Tyler Ward, who didn’t play in the second half and will miss Friday’s game against Meeker. Senior Jon Haisfield will start in place of Ward.
“Injuries stacked up on us, and there was also a lot of missed opportunities that we had in the first half as well,” Benson said of the Bayfield game. “I actually, going back and watching film, felt better about it because we had a lot of kids fighting right until the end and playing hard and giving everything they had. In high school football when the momentum switches, it switches usually pretty hard and pretty aggressively.”
Class 1A Meeker (2-0) won’t be an easy task with so many players expected out again for Aspen. The Cowboys are ranked No. 4 in 1A this week and have wins over Hotchkiss (28-7) and Coal Ridge (40-8). One of the best teams in their classification on a yearly basis, they played in the 1A state championship game as recently as 2016, losing to Strasburg in the final. Meeker lost in the state quarterfinals last season, losing to eventual champion Limon.
The Cowboys are led by junior quarterback Ryan Phelan, who is 34 of 50 for 491 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception through two games. He’s also rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries with three more scores.
“Meeker is a great football team. It’s another storied tradition up there,” Benson said. “They have a quarterback that is a dual-purpose guy that can run the ball very effectively and they have a lot of kids that are definitely after something. They’ve made a run at it the last couple of years.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. Aspen played the Cowboys in the 2018 season opener, winning 38-26 in Meeker.
BASALT TAKES ON BATTLE MOUNTAIN IN HOME OPENER
Coach Carl Frerichs didn’t have much to complain about after his Longhorns took down Olathe in their season opener last week, winning 29-7 on the road. Basalt came out of the game healthy, was never really threatened and saw a lot of good things from a backfield that had little varsity experience coming into the season.
“I thought Matty Gillis, for his first varsity start, played really, really well,” Frerichs said of his junior quarterback. “The defense, they really came at us hard so I was really pleased with how he played in his first varsity start. I thought the running backs played well. We did a pretty good job in terms of overall offensively.”
Gillis finished his debut going 12 of 21 for 141 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore Cole Dombrowski led the BHS rushing attack with 50 yards on 13 carries. Sophomore Gavin Webb had two rushing touchdowns, while senior receiver Jackson Rapaport had six catches for 61 yards and both TD grabs.
Next up, Basalt (1-0) will face a stiffer challenge in Class 3A Battle Mountain (2-0). The teams are set to kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday on the BHS field.
“Their skills look really good,” Frerichs said of the Huskies. “They changed their offense. They’ve been in the double wing for several years; they are kind of doing more of a spread. They throw a decent amount; a lot more than they were. But it’s kind of like the spread run with some throws in there.”
The Huskies have opened 2019 with wins over Middle Park (27-23) and Alameda (49-0). They are getting a few votes to be ranked in Class 3A, while the Longhorns are effectively No. 11 this week in 2A.
“It will definitely be a good test for us,” Frerichs said. “We just jumped on them last year and they never got the momentum going. Because two years ago that was one of the best games of our season.”
ASPEN YOUTH FOOTBALL HOSTING CARBONDALE SATURDAY
Aspen’s youth football teams are set to host the first of two home games this fall on Saturday. The third/fourth-grade team will host Carbondale at 10 a.m. Saturday on the AHS turf, while the fifth/sixth-grade team will play at noon.
Both Aspen teams are 1-0 this season after winning at Glenwood Springs in the openers last weekend. The only other home games for Aspen this season will be Oct. 12 when both teams host Rifle.
Basalt’s youth teams are scheduled to host their first home games next weekend (Sept. 21) against Rifle.
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.