Aspen Skiers rush past Grand Valley 41-7
The Aspen Times
The Skiers kept everything simple — except the busy scoreboard.
The Aspen High School football team, resorting to a simple game plan and a punishing rushing attack, won the first game under new coach Ryan Triece on Friday night, overwhelming visiting Grand Valley 41-7 before an entertained crowd at Aspen School District Stadium.
The Skiers scored on their first four possessions of the game to lead 27-0 at halftime, quickly erasing the agony of last weekend’s 33-0 loss on a long road trip to Cortez.
Aspen broke its early season scoring drought on the game’s first possession when quarterback Tyler Tick marched the Skiers 80 yards in eight plays with fellow senior Ryan Fitzgerald scoring from a yard out.
The all-conference senior carried on Aspen’s first five plays of the game, finishing with 41 yards in the initial drive as the Skiers led 6-0 just four minutes into the game.
By halftime, Fitzgerald had followed the Aspen blockers to a total of 98 yards on 16 carries — and another touchdown.
“That sets the tone for the whole game to start off right (with a touchdown),” said Fitzgerald, who finished with 115 yards rushing on 20 carries. “We had a lot greater energy (Friday night); it was a better atmosphere. Last week, we were kind of dead. But this week, we were ready to go.”
Ryer Gardenswartz, who helped the offensive line power through the Cardinals for nearly 300 rushing yards, said the Skiers wanted to show strength up front in the home opener.
“We … wanted to have our O (offensive) line dominate the line of scrimmage so Fitz can do what he does,” Gardenswartz said. “And it worked.”
Fellow tailback Matt Gregory also dashed through the Grand Valley defense, picking up 80 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Tick added a 14-yard touchdown pass to Harry Ferguson to cap a 13-play, 70-yard Aspen drive in the second quarter.
“We just tried to keep the momentum running the whole game,” Tick said.
Likewise on defense, the Skiers managed to stymie the misdirection offense of the Cardinals.
“We had a (defensive) game plan, and we executed it,” said Evan Morris, who led the Aspen defense. “We definitely meshed today. We played a lot more physically. We tackled a lot better.”
The Cardinals, led by versatile quarterback Leon Hernandez, avoided the shutout for Grand Valley when he led a fourth-quarter scoring drive.
He passed 16 yards to Sam Parker on a fade route to set up the eventual touchdown.
Tyler Matthews added a 12-yard run on a counter play.
The score came on a one-yard sneak by Hernandez, who also totaled 128 return yards for the Cardinals including a big 64-yard kickoff return to help set up the lone touchdown.
“It feels good to get that first one,” Aspen head coach Triece said after Friday night’s celebration. “It’s been a long week. We had a lot to work on. “
And a solid week of preparation paid dividends Friday night, he said.
“We didn’t want to run a lot of (different) plays, and we didn’t,” Triece said. “We just wanted to run our base stuff and execute our bread and butter.”
And don’t forget the burritos.
“Yeah, we have food incentives. We try to score on our first drive; we make that a priority,” Triece said, adding that the team is rewarded with breakfast burritos if they can score on the opening drive. “That was a breakfast-burrito drive.”
The Skiers will return to the road next week for a trip to Steamboat Springs next Friday night. Steamboat plays in the 3A Western Slope League. The Sailors beat Moffat County 28-14 on Friday night.
Aspen will be back home Sept. 12 to host Cedaredge in the final nonconference game of the season. Cedaredge topped Basalt 17-10 on Friday.
The Aspen football team will open the Western Slope North League season Sept. 26 at Roaring Fork.