Football: Aspen blanks Coal Ridge, improves to 6-1 |

Football: Aspen blanks Coal Ridge, improves to 6-1

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul CloudAspen's Cameron Siewruk sacks Coal Ridge's Gunnar Pagni and jars the ball loose Friday in New Castle.

NEW CASTLE – Aspen’s offense was efficient and its defense dominant in the driving rain Friday in New Castle.

The Skiers scored two touchdowns in both the first and third quarters against Coal Ridge, and the defense recorded its second shutout of the season en route to a lopsided 25-0 victory over the Titans.

“The weather was nasty, but the kids persevered. I’m really proud of them,” Aspen head coach Mike Sirko said. “It would’ve been easy to say, ‘Let’s pack it in and go home,’ but they gutted it out and really stepped up.”

The visitors took advantage of sloppy field conditions to strike early in the first quarter. Aspen’s opening kickoff plugged in a puddle, and freshman Zac Storm pounced on it, giving the Skiers possession and a short field.

“He rolled into it and got a gallon of water splashed on his face,” Sirko joked, “but he hung on to the ball.”

Danny Schwartz made Coal Ridge pay soon after with a short touchdown run. Later in the quarter, quarterback Luke Rider found the end zone on a sneak to extend the lead to 13-0.

Rider made the most of his 11 rushing yards, capping the first drive of the third quarter with another scoring scamper.

The sophomore also completed 4 of 7 pass attempts for 85 yards – 23 coming on a well-executed screen pass to Schwartz, who broke free for a score late in the third to give Aspen a 25-0 cushion.

Schwartz carried the ball 27 times for 132 yards. More important, the senior and Rider took care of the ball one week after the Skiers put the ball on the turf six times in the first half against Gunnison.

“Luke and (center) J.J. (Ready) did a nice job with the exchange,” Sirko said. “There could’ve been a lot of fumbles, but everybody did a great job and took care of business.”

Schwartz, the starting fullback at the season’s outset, is proving to be a capable replacement for injured tailback Casey Hornburg. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in back-to-back games to help the Skiers improve to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in 2A Western Slope play.

Hornburg, who was off crutches Friday, little more than a week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, is not expected to return for a few weeks, Sirko said.

“He’s really filled in admirably, and we’ve needed him,” Sirko said of Schwartz. “He, Storm and the O-line played well, too, and the defense stifled them. I felt like they played lights out tonight.

“We played hard, they played hard, and we got the best of the them.”

Aspen hosts Grand Valley next week in a pivotal conference clash between

second-place teams. The Cardinals (6-1, 4-1) topped Basalt, 41-20, in other action Friday.

“Grand Valley is a hell of a good team,” Sirko said. “It’ll be huge, but we’ve still got a shot. We’re still in the hunt. We’re happy to be in this position.”

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