Aspen youth football faces Basalt Sunday
Before many of the current Aspen High School football players were able to represent the Skiers under the Friday night lights, they were waterboys, often a rite of passage for any young lad.
Even junior quarterback R.J. Peshek, long before he was slinging passes as a varsity player, did his duty in keeping the older kids hydrated.
The avenue to serve in this role often came through Mountain West Youth Football, which for more than two decades has served much of the Western Slope as the place to go for full-contact tackle football.
“Football is a great tool to be able to use and teach kids of this age those different responsibilities in life,” said Aspen’s Derek Johnson, a longtime youth football coach in the valley. “It’s not as much about developing them for the future as players. It’s more about teaching them through the sport of football hard work and teamwork — that you have to rely on the other 10 guys on the field at the same time.”
Johnson’s own son, AHS sophomore Cooper Johnson, was one of those waterboys years ago. Johnson now starts on the offensive line for the Skiers.
Aspen fields two teams this fall in the Mountain West Youth Football league, one comprised of third-and fourth-graders, the other of fifth- and sixth-graders.
“They are little bobbleheads. You got to have fun with them,” Derek Johnson said. “Each one needs a little bit something different as far as encouragement. At the end of the day, you got to have fun with them all. There has to be some type of fun at practice.”
Aspen youth football will host its second and final home games of the season Sunday at the AHS athletic field. The younger kids play at noon, and the older kids play at 4 p.m. Both teams are currently undefeated in their short season, and will face Basalt for the valley crown.
“We beat Glenwood last week and if we win this one we’ll be the ‘Beast of the Valley.’ That’s what we’ve been telling the kids all week,” Johnson said. “They start to get (the rivalry with Basalt) here. They play a lot of sports against each other. This is where it starts, for sure.”
Aspen Youth Football is sponsored by Elks Lodge No. 224.
For more information on the league, visit http://www.mountain westyouthfootball.com.
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