Aspen’s Gents roll over Blue Goose
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” The Aspen rugby club spoiled the Gentlemen of the Blue Goose’s season opener for the second straight year Saturday by marching to a 49-17 victory at Kingdom Park in Breckenridge.
Although the contest may have been a humbling experience for the Blue Goose ruggers, it was one that will likely help them improve.
“I would actually prefer to open with a strong team because it really points out our weaknesses,” Goose coach Peter Shafroth said. “Aspen absolutely clobbered us here last year (82-17), then we nearly beat them in the Steamboat tourney.”
The Gentlemen were led by Joe Pizzi, who scored 12 points on one try, one penalty kick and two conversions.
“For the first time ever, we had the talent to beat (Aspen) today,” Pizzi said following Saturday’s match. “We just didn’t play as a team. We’ve also only had three weeks of practice ” that has a lot to do with it as well.”
The Gentlemen of Aspen, by contrast, played a spring schedule, which gave it the inherent upper hand in the summer debut for both teams.
“I was pretty impressed when we first started,” Shafroth said. “But throughout the middle of game, it was pretty obvious we were disjointed. They were way ahead of us as far as fitness and playing together.”
The visitors scored the game’s first 21 points before Pizzi converted a penalty kick late in the first half. The hosts, who never stopped competing despite falling behind by as many as 46 points, scored the final 14 points of the game.
“You don’t mind losing to a better team as long as you keep playing hard,” said Russell Backhouse, who scored a try for the Goose. “We have a lot of stuff to work on, primarily fitness, but we’ve got a good bunch of lads.”
A more than 20-year member of the Goose, Backhouse played with the typical reckless abandon that he’s become known for.
Shirtless and dirty following Saturday’s effort, he spoke to his level of exhaustion.
“I feel half like I need to get more fit and half like I’m just slowing down,” Backhouse said. “I’m getting a bit older.”
Aspen, which beat the Goose three times last season, is a perennial powerhouse in the mountain division.
Much of that has to do with recruiting, according to Pizzi.
“A lot of the guys are from all over the place,” he said. “England, Ireland, New Zealand ” they’ve been playing their whole lives. Here, we have mostly Americans who don’t start playing until their senior year in high school.”
As lopsided as Saturday’s victory was, Goose players were less demoralized than they were a year ago at this time.
Some would say things are looking up for the gentlemen in blue and white.
“I guarantee we’re going to improve on that .500 record from last year,” Pizzi said. “We’ve got the talent and we’ve got guys from all over playing for us, so it should be good stuff.”
The Goose will host Glenwood on Saturday at 3 p.m.
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One of the Demons’ key players, senior co-captain Graci Dietrich has severe hearing loss and relies on hand signs and lip-reading, rather than verbal communication, between her basketball teammates and coaches.