Football: Aspen back in the postseason |

Football: Aspen back in the postseason

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen is heading back to the show.

After a regular season with eight victories and a third-place finish in the deep 2A Western Slope, the Skiers football team learned Sunday that it had earned a second consecutive trip to the state tournament.

Aspen, one of four wild cards in the 16-team field, garnered the 12th seed. It will travel to Florence on Saturday to square off with the fifth-seeded Huskies, who finished 9-1 in their first season in 2A after drop­ping down one classification. Their lone loss came to 3A Falcon, last year’s state runner-up.

Undefeated Platte Canyon captured 2A’s top seed. Olathe (10-0) and Grand Valley (8-2), the two teams to finish ahead of Aspen in the Western Slope, are seed­ed third and 10th, respectively.

“If somebody had told me we’d make it two years in a row, I’d say we had a shot but I probably wouldn’t have believed it myself,” Skiers coach Mike Sirko said Sunday. ” We’re pretty excited. These kids have done some great things.

“I’m proud of the way the kids came out of the shoot [ Friday]. They had to get that one, and they made sure.”

Because only the top two teams in each league are guaranteed postseason berths, Aspen entered Friday’s game against Coal Ridge needing a victory to remain in the wild-card conversation. It left little to chance, scoring three touchdowns in a 30-second span early in the first quarter of a 60-14 rout of the Titans.

The victory was Sirko’s 200th as a prep head coach. “The chance to get in the playoffs and reach a mile­stone like that was really exciting,” he said. ” It was a great night for the coaches and the kids.”

Two consecutive road losses to Grand Valley and Olathe in early October cast doubt on the Skiers’ play­off chances. But they responded, outscoring Roaring Fork, Gunnison and Coal Ridge by a combined total of 14434 during a current three-game win streak. Tail­back Beau Seguin piled up more than 200 yards rush­ing in each of those games.

Aspen is hoping to keep the momentum going against Florence. And it’s hoping to learn from last year’s postseason trip, when the then ninth-ranked Skiers lost to eighth-seeded Eaton, 30-7.

“To go that first time was exciting for the kids. It’ll be exciting again, but it’s more like ‘Hey, we’ve been here before, so let’s go out and have some fun and play a lit­tle looser,'” Sirko said. “You never know what’s going to happen and which team is going to step forward. … I want the kids to get used to being there.”

Last year’s experience should help Aspen, as will a more balanced scoring attack. In addition to Seguin, who this season rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and upped his school-record touchdown total to 30, quar­terback Anderson Cole showed poise and leadership in his second season at the helm of the Skiers offense. The junior threw for nearly 1,200 yards and 10 touch­downs, completed 67 percent of his passes and was intercepted just once. In Friday’s regular-season finale, he was 12-of-14 for 120 yards and threw three touchdowns.

While the Aspen offense scored an average of 40 points a game, its defense ” particularly the revamped defensive line and linebacking corps ” could help decide Saturday’s game. Florence’s two leading rushers, Bret Leader and Heath Benker, com­bined for nearly 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns.

The Huskies outscored opponents, 378-155, and were rarely tested on their run to a Tri- Peaks confer­ence title.

“It’s playoff time, and anything can happen,” Sirko said. “The whole idea is to keep knocking on the door ” you never know when it’ll get caved in. … I feel like we’re in elite company being one of only 16 teams still practicing. We’re excited about the opportunity to hopefully being playing when only eight teams are left.”

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