Aspen High kicks off football season Friday
The Aspen Times
The Skiers will kick off early.
The Aspen High School football team will host Montezuma-Cortez in a “zero week” game Friday night at Aspen School District Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on a brand new season.
The Skiers, in part, play a zero-week contest because they have a week break for experiential education at midseason. That makes Aspen a prime candidate for the early games on the schedule in Colorado preps.
The Skiers experienced the same early start last year when they had to make the 7-hour trip to Cortez to open the 2014 season under first-year head coach Ryan Triece, who went on to be voted the Western Slope League coach of the year.
He’s back for a second season, with a home game tonight to start the newest season.
“The kids have been working hard; these first couple weeks are tough,” Triece said. “They got through two-a-days, and now the start of school.”
The Skiers hit the classrooms for Day 1 on Monday.
“Tuesday’s practice was a lot better,” Triece said, adding that the Skiers are focusing on discipline and avoiding mistakes in the early going.
“We want to go out and take care of the ball. And we need to limit big plays on defense,” said Triece, adding that it will be a treat to play at home tonight instead of making a long trip to open the season.
“There’s a lot less to worry about playing at home,” he said.
Last year’s opener left a bitter taste from a loss on the road to a Cortez team that is playing down in classification because of numbers and competitive issues. But the Panthers powered into the playoffs with their rebuilding efforts last year.
They’ll be making their first trip to Aspen for football in the modern era of Colorado prep sports.
The Skiers, while losing a big senior class from last year, return a number of players with extensive varsity experience.
But many of them will be in new positions, Triece said.
Tristan Niskanen has been moved to tight end this year after playing tackle last season, the AHS coach said.
“Our starting fullback was a guard last year … Jake Ferlisi,” Triece said.
Nick Morgan will play tailback this year after serving in a variety of capacities last year.
He had time at tailback last year when injuries hit the Aspen backfield.
“He did get some carries last year,” Triece said. “He’s going to have to step up and be the guy back there.”
Sophomore RJ Peshak will start at quarterback after seeing some varsity duty last year as a freshman.
“He played last year (because of injuries),” Triece said.
The Aspen offense will have to replace all-state tailback Ryan Fitzgerald, one of the leading rushers in the state over the last three seasons.
As well, the Aspen attack lost all-state kicker John Heaphey to graduation.
“That as really a luxury with John,” Triece said, adding that the Skiers won’t have a long-range field goal threat but should be solid on extra points and short kicks.
After Friday night’s home opener, the Aspen football team will travel to Parachute next week for a Sept. 4 game at Grand Valley.
Aspen will host Steamboat Springs on Sept. 11 in another nonconference game at Aspen School District Stadium.
The Skiers will travel to Cedaredge on Sept. 18 before the bye week and a week of experiential education.
They will resume their schedule with a critical league game at home when Roaring Fork visits on Oct. 2.
The Skiers will host Coal Ridge for homecoming on Oct. 9 before two late-season road trips. They will play at Battle Mountain on Oct. 16 and at Moffat County (Craig) on Oct. 23.
The Aspen High School football team will close the regular season with a home game against rival Basalt on Oct. 30.
“Staying healthy is a huge key for us,” Triece said, adding that the Skiers will not be as deep as last year’s team.
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.