Aspen High football team hopes new weight program pays off in 2017
The Aspen High School football team spent much of last season getting pushed around en route to a 2-7 overall record.
Much of that had to do with the youth — there was only one varsity senior on the roster. A byproduct of that youth was a lack of mature bodies on the field, and football is unkind to those lacking strength.
The Skiers are hoping to do a lot more of the pushing in 2017.
“We have a lot of young guys who have never lifted before, so getting them in there was pretty important if we are going to build our team and do better than we did last year,” sophomore lineman Ben Spicer said. “It’s made a huge difference with just being in a lot better shape than we were at the beginning of last year, and the confidence being stronger.”
Prior to head coach Karson Pike’s arrival last season, the AHS football program had been without a steady, offseason weight program for a handful of years. This became a top priority for Pike, and two days into the fall season — practice officially started on Monday — everyone seems to agree that it is paying off.
“The first year with coach, we weren’t a team, and he really brought us together in the weight room, getting stronger,” sophomore lineman Aidan Ledingham said. “We are a much stronger team, a much better team, a much more intelligent team. So when we do play those big teams like Moffat and Basalt, I think we are going to match up well against them.”
The Skiers had little business being on the field against those “bigger” teams last season. Basalt, which won the Class 2A Western Slope League, beat Aspen 48-0. Moffat County, the league runner up, beat AHS 48-22 in the regular-season finale.
Aspen’s two wins in 2016 came 16-12 over Arvada in Game 2 and 22-20 over Steamboat Springs on senior night. A few others were competitive, like a 22-14 loss at Middle Park to open the season and a 31-22 loss at home to Coal Ridge, but their youthful and physical deficiencies often shone through.
“There really has been great buy in. I think this summer we averaged about 15 kids a day, with kids leaving on vacation and things like that,” Pike said of the weight program. “They’ve really bought into the program and it’s fun to see them grow closer together and then build that confidence.”
Developing confidence in the players has been every bit as important to Pike as building strength. While last year’s lone senior, James Kistner, is on his way to play Division III football at Chapman University in California, the Skiers are returning virtually their entire roster from 2016.
Pike expects to have around 40 kids on the team this year, up a handful from a season ago, with around eight or so seniors by the time the season gets going Aug. 25 at home against Middle Park. The Skiers will play up-tempo, depending on speed more than strength, but the added muscle mass from the offseason workouts are expected to make a big difference for the team this season.
“It shows a lot of the commitment to the team overall,” junior lineman Dillon Jonsson said. “The weight room will help with that a lot. And going 2-7 two years in a row will kind of help give us a chip on our shoulders.”
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After mixed messages and increased pressure from coaches, players and parents, CHSAA said Wednesday the fall football season was back on, should schools choose to take part.