Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Playoffs are here, although with a heavy heart

Aspen High School lacrosse player R.J. Peshek, left, holds off a Cheyenne Mountain defender during a game in 2018. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

I didn’t know Mike Goerne or Owen Green all that well, but I wish I had.

Goerne, 37, led the Aspen High School boys lacrosse team — a program he essentially built from scratch — to the 2015 state championship, which was before I arrived on scene here in the Roaring Fork Valley. Green, 27, also had become a well-liked lacrosse coach in the area, which included helping out with the Skiers.

Both men died Saturday in an avalanche near Crested Butte, a major shock to the valley as a whole, but especially to the local lacrosse community, which is a tight-knit group.

The Aspen schools plan to recognize the two with a moment of silence Tuesday morning. Certainly, more memorials will be held in the coming days. Wherever you are in reading this, can I ask you to take a moment now to honor two men who had a tremendous influence on youth sports in the valley and were taken much too soon.

There will be no easy way to move forward from this. But, one thing that might offer up a bit of relief will be to play some games. Their deaths are a reminder of how fragile life is and how unimportant winning on the field can be. Many of our area winter sports teams will compete in the playoffs or state championships this week, and hopefully they can keep the bigger picture of life in mind.

Still, sports also can teach us a lot. We play first and foremost because it’s fun, but also from the life lessons sports can provide. The actual games are such a small part of athletics, and from what I could tell Goerne and Green were two guys who knew this well, and their players loved them for it.

Some of our teams will lose this week. Others may win. The results are irrelevant, however, as long as the athletes play with that same heart and integrity guys like Goerne and Green sought to instill in them.

Now, about this week’s games…


There are three games going on Tuesday.

First, the Aspen High School hockey team will be on the University of Denver campus for a 3 p.m. game against Kent Denver in the first round of the state playoffs. AHS, seeded No. 17, just missed out on hosting this game, with Kent being the No. 16 seed.

The Skiers kind of stumbled to the finish line this winter, but remain more than capable of winning versus Kent. Next up would be No. 1 seed and defending state champion Regis Jesuit on Friday.

For the basketball fans, all eyes will be on Delta. The Panthers are set to host the Basalt girls at 5:30 p.m. and the Aspen boys at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinal round of the district tournament. The season is over for the losers, while the winners move onto the semifinals to be played Friday.

Delta is the top seed and league champ for both the boys and girls. The Basalt girls and Aspen boys each had to win a play-in game Saturday over their rival to have the chance to face Delta. The Panthers had little trouble beating either team in the their only contests earlier this season.

Beginning Thursday is both state skiing and state wrestling. Aspen will be sending a large contingent to Purgatory for skiing, where it is the defending state champion (boys and girls). State skiing is a two-day event, concluding Friday, that is a joint alpine and Nordic competition.

Basalt will have a lone wrestler at state in junior heavyweight, Ernesto Lopez. If you saw this guy play during the football season, you know he’ll have a chance to make some noise on the Pepsi Center mat in Denver.

If you’re looking forward to spring sports — including the lacrosse season — you need only look as far as Monday, when practices officially begin.

Note: This will be my final Prep Playbook until we get into the spring sports season. See you soon.