Basalt takeaways seal rivalry win
Predicting rivalry football games is far from an exact science. It’s usually a safe bet, however, to say that the team who wins the turnover battle in such contests will also win the game.That was the blueprint for Saturday’s game between host Aspen (1-5) and Basalt (3-4) at the Aspen Middle School field. The Longhorns picked off Aspen sophomore quarterback Harry Maniloff three times, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns to spoil Aspen’s homecoming, 19-7.The Longhorns also recovered two Aspen fumbles. The two interception returns were too much for the Skiers to overcome in a game that otherwise pitted two evenly matched teams. The Aspen defense did its part, holding nifty Basalt running back Ben Pollock to 93 yards on 19 carries. Pollock entered the game averaging 135 yards a contest. Pollock’s counterpart on the Aspen sideline, Jackson Davis, was also impressive, finishing with 118 rushing yards on 25 carries. After the game, Aspen head coach Travis Benson didn’t single out any individuals for the loss, noting that Maniloff’s interceptions weren’t his fault alone. Two of the three interceptions came with Maniloff trying to come up with a big play while facing pressure from oncoming Basalt defenders.
“I’ll never make excuses,” Benson said. “We have a sophomore quarterback that’s busting his ass and wants to win and it takes a lot at this level. He’s doing a phenomenal job. The hard part is that experience-wise, we’re not deep. That’s what I told the boys. It just has to get to a point where we’re consistent, and that’s hard to do when you have only three seniors on the team.”The Skiers scored first Saturday on their second possession of the game. After taking over at the 41, Davis led the way on an eight-play, 59-yard drive. The 6-foot-1 senior broke a 16-yard run on a thrid down and five from the Basalt 31 to set up Aspen at the Basalt 15. Two plays later, Aspen fullback Tucker Eason took a quick handoff and pounded into the end zone from 10 yards out with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter.Pollock evened the score, 7-7, on the Longhorns’ next possession, capping off a 10-play, 72-yard drive with a highlight-reel 41-yard touchdown run. Basalt was facing a crucial fourth down and inches at the 41 when Pollock took a pitch left, then cut back right to crease the Aspen secondary en route to the end zone.Davis fumbled on the first play of Aspen’s next possession at the Skiers’ 35, but the Aspen defense held to turn the ball back over on downs.From its own 20, Aspen drove to its 42 before Maniloff was picked off by Pollock on a third down and 11. Pollock stepped in front of the pass on the far sideline and was gone, racing 50 yards to the end zone untouched. The senior was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for diving into the end zone, and the point after attempt was no good after the ball was moved back 10 yards.
“I was just excited to be in the end zone, but I was walking back to the sidelines and I was like, ‘Oh man, maybe I shouldn’t have done that,'” Pollock said.After the half, Basalt was forced to punt on its first two possessions. The second punt was muffed by Aspen’s Michael Ufkes and Pollock slid in for the recovery, setting up the Longhorns at the Aspen 32. The Skiers defense again came up big. Aspen cornerback Whit Fuller picked off Basalt quarterback Jimmy Coorigan three plays later with Basalt threatening from the Aspen 24.Aspen’s momentum was zapped three plays later. Basalt’s Chris Fitzgerald stepped in front of a Maniloff pass intended for Ufkes and returned the pick for a 17-yard touchdown.The point-after attempt was no good. The final Aspen turnover came with the Skiers driving with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. On the Basalt 26, Maniloff was flushed from the pocket and released an errant pass that ended up in the hands of Basalt’s Rory Johnson.Following the win, Basalt coach Forrest Grosh praised his defensive unit.
“They came up huge today, not only getting the turnovers, but then doing something with the ball when we got the turnover and punching it into the end zone,” Grosh said. “We haven’t seen much of that this year from our defense. It’s finally good to get that out of the defensive backs. I also think that’s something we can credit our offense to today. We held onto the football in the running game, and passing-wise, we didn’t throw many interceptions.”Pollock, who was playing in only his second rivalry football game after playing soccer for Basalt as a sophomore and junior, said the only thing that mattered was the win, not his rushing numbers.”It feels great. It was a little ugly, but we’ll take anything,” the senior said. “I think the reason it was so ugly was because both teams knew what was coming. Both teams like to run the ball and we were just the team that stepped it up in other parts of the game on defense and special teams.”Aspen’s leading tackler was senior linebacker David Goldberg, who finished with six solo tackles and seven assists. “We played really well,” Goldberg said. “It’s just the turnovers and little mistakes are killing us. That’s consistently happening every game. Until we eliminate that, like coach Benson said, nothing is going to quite work out.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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The Aspen High School ski team wrapped up its short and sweet regular season Friday with home races at Highlands. The Skiers hosted both a slalom and giant slalom on Thunderbowl, with an AHS athlete taking three of the wins.