Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Saying goodbye to the fall high school sports season
The chairlifts start turning Saturday on Aspen Mountain, meaning winter is officially here. If you need more verification, Monday was the first day for winter prep practices with the start of the season only a few weeks away for most teams.
What this also means is that the fall season has been put to bed. The Basalt High School football team was the last still playing, and with its quarterfinal loss over the weekend I can say goodbye to the first third of the prep calendar.
As we say our farewells, I figure we can look back on what was a very exciting fall for both local high schools and give some final kudos to some teams, players and coaches who really stood out.
I apologize for not being able to mention every person or team deserving of recognition. Also, these decisions were completely my own and, much like in past years, does not come with any sort of physical award. Maybe in the future someone can craft me some medals to hand out or something.
BEST TEAM: Aspen boys golf
This was an easy decision, as the Skiers brought home the lone state championship of the fall. This was a special season for AHS boys golf, one that began with extremely high expectations for one of the most talented and deep teams in the program’s history.
After dominating all season and cruising to a 10th-straight regional title, it was on to Boulder Country Club the first two days of October for the grand finale. Aspen led by a single stroke after the first day of play, but quickly pulled away on the second and final day to win the Class 3A state championship by nine strokes over powerhouse Kent Denver.
It was Aspen’s first state championship in boys golf. Coached by Mary Woulfe and Don Buchholz, AHS senior Jack Hughes was the state runner-up, finishing three strokes behind champion Jackson Klutznick of Kent Denver. AHS junior Jack Pevny tied for fourth.
Rounding out this year’s talented squad were seniors Dominic Lanese, Dawson Holmes, Colter Zwieg and freshman Nic Pevny. It was a season that won’t be forgotten in Aspen.
BEST COACH: Bailey Holmes
There’s a long list of coaches who deserve this, but I needed a spot to recognize the Aspen volleyball team. The Skiers have been stellar in their now two years under coach Bailey Holmes, winning 13 games a year ago before going 18-7 this season and making the regional championship game.
This year’s group, which was senior-heavy, is easily the best team Aspen has seen since the early 2000s. Holmes will certainly have her hands full next year as the Skiers rebuild after losing so much veteran talent.
Yes, I’m going with players, plural, because picking a single athlete is too difficult. For the sake of this column, I’m going to focus on a handful of football players who were statistical animals in Class 2A this season.
To start, AHS sophomore quarterback Tyler Ward had a phenomenal fall. In nine regular-season games, he threw for 2,202 yards, the most in 2A. He also finished with a ridiculous 26 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. His future is certainly bright.
Ward did have a lot of help, such as junior Max Ufkes, who had 920 yards receiving through nine games to lead 2A. AHS senior Noah Hollander was fourth with 751 yards. Each caught 10 regular-season touchdowns.
Then there is Basalt senior running back Jake Reardon. He finished the season (11 games) with 1,561 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing. The only player in 2A to run for more was Rifle’s Tanner Vines. Reardon was top-10 in the state for rushing yards, any classification, as of this week.
By comparison, Basalt’s star running back last season, Noah Williams, ran for 1,422 yards and 26 touchdowns over 11 games. Williams signed with Fort Lewis College out of high school.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Aspen football
Sticking with the football theme, I’m not sure there was a bigger surprise than Aspen football this season. Looking back, maybe they shouldn’t have been, but heading into the season there was just so much unknown with the team that expectations, at least externally, were tempered.
But the coaching staff, led by Travis Benson and Alex Wood, picked up where Karson Pike left off. Ward filled in admirably, plus some, for three-year starter R.J. Peshek, and the Skiers showed a lot of grit throughout the season.
AHS finished 6-4 overall despite having only three home games and what was in general a very difficult schedule. Aspen’s losses came at Bayfield, then the No. 1 team in the state, at Delta, at Basalt and at Salida in the first round of the state playoffs. The highlight was a stunning upset over host Rifle, which won the 2A WSL.
BEST MOMENT: Aspen softball
I wished I could have been there when this happened. Back in September in Gunnison, the Aspen softball team won the first game of a doubleheader, 19-18. It would go down as the only win of the season for the Skiers, but considering they hadn’t won a game since 2009, they’ll certainly take it.
Close seconds were obviously Aspen golf winning the state title and Basalt sophomore Sierra Bower winning the regional cross country meet in Aspen.
Note: This will be my final Prep Playbook column until after Thanksgiving when the winter sports season gets going. Until then, I’m going to enjoy this “quiet” time and get my shred on. See you on the mountain.
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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.