Aspen Junior Gents win state championship
The mission is complete.
The Junior Gents returned to the Division II Rugby State Championship final, scoring a 19-8 victory over Fort Collins last weekend at Infinity Park Stadium in Glenale.
Fort Collins threw everything at the smaller Gents team right from the start, battering away at the Junior Gents line and opening up the scoring with a try by their elusive fly-half.
The score went unconverted, but Fort Collins set its game plan, according to Junior Gents coach Gary Williams.
Despite frequent powerful runs by the Fort Collins forwards, the Gents defense kept them at bay.
After 20 minutes, Fort Collins led 5-0.
A rare foray into the Fort Collins half was started by Matt Williams, followed by powerful running from Felipe Martinez.
The efforts nearly led to a Quintana score in the corner after he had scooped up a loose pass at full pace.
A penalty was awarded, which Williams took quickly. He beat three defenders and scored under the posts.
Wiehan Pretorius converted to give the Gents a 7-5 lead.
The experienced and talented Fort Collins pack came roaring back, but the Aspen scrum held.
The power of the Martinez brothers, McKee, Companzano and Michael Wampler took the sting out of the Fort Collins attack.
Any free running by the Fort Collins backs was terminated quickly by the relentless tackling of Jonny Medrano, according to the Junior Gents coaches.
Fort Collins scored just before the half, taking an 8-7 lead, and setting the stage for a thrilling second half in front of a large and noisy crowd.
The Junior Gents lost flanker Sorensen to injury. But he was replaced by Irving Pimiento, who came on and impressed with his determination and power, the coaches said.
The second half belonged to the Junior Gents but in particular to scrum half Matt Williams.
The goal was to tire the bigger Fort Collins players and push the tempo of the game, with the likes of Pretorius, Gentry and Fox.
The kicking of Williams also controlled field position.
And William scored again, dragging tacklers over the line.
Then, he broke away, flipped a backhand pass to Pretorius, who dived in for a try.
He converted after the try, pushing the score to the final, 19-8.
The Junior Gents nearly scored again after Austin Schneider broke free and dashed 55 yards.
After the game, a large band of parents, friends and rugby fans celebrated with the Junior Gents, a team of high school players from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
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Once the Aspen High School defense woke up — random 4 p.m. kickoffs need some getting used to — the Skiers were able to dictate Saturday’s football game en route to a 22-7 victory over visiting Steamboat Springs on the AHS turf.