Football: Aspen falls in league opener to Coal Ridge
At this point, it’s more a battle of attrition on its own sideline than against any team opposite the field. On Friday against visiting Coal Ridge, the Aspen High School football team struggled keeping bodies in play in a 31-22 loss in its Western Slope League opener.
“All of a sudden, we are playing guys that have never taken a snap at the position they are playing. A lot of chaos going on,” Aspen coach Karson Pike said. “They went in there and fought their butts off. That is something to be proud of, but it doesn’t make the loss any easier.”
Coal Ridge (1-4 overall, 1-0 Western Slope League) led 6-0, driving right down the field on their first possession. The Titans scored on a 34-yard pass from quarterback Jackson Sargent to Raul Ramirez.
That score carried into the second quarter, when Aspen got on the board. The Skiers scored on a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback R.J. Peshek to receiver Max Ufkes, where Ufkes broke numerous tackles to score. Peshek converted the 2-point conversion to make it 8-6.
A short field goal late in the quarter gave Coal Ridge a 9-8 lead at halftime.
After a sluggish offensive start for both teams in the second half, Aspen reclaimed the lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Peshek to Noah Hollander, with a failed conversion making it 14-9 midway through the quarter.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Coal Ridge answered with a quick drive and touchdown. The score came on a short run by Eddy Baez, and a successful conversion gave the Titans the 17-14 lead late in the period.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Coal Ridge extended the lead to 24-14 on a 16-yard pass from Sargent to Tyler Slone.
“At the end of the day, Coach made a few changes on defense that simplified things for them,” Pike said. “We just let guys go play ball. And it worked pretty well. So it was good to see the fight.”
Aspen kept scrapping, but little came of it. Coal Ridge’s lead grew to 31-14 on a 77-yard touchdown run by Jacx Power with less than four minutes to play. Aspen did answer with a 46-yard touchdown pass from Peshek to Ufkes, but even with a successful conversion Aspen trailed by two scores with little time remaining.
“We got to bring that fire a little earlier in games. It seems like when we finally get our backs up against the wall, then we are coming out swinging,” Pike said. “It stung. A lot of guys crying. It’s a hard message for them to gather right now. I think they know after a couple coaches talked, how proud we are.”
Aspen (1-4 overall, 0-1 Western Slope League), will play at Basalt (3-2, 1-0) next week during the Longhorns’ homecoming. Basalt was a 49-0 winner over Steamboat Springs on Friday. In the third Western Slope League game of the night, Moffat County beat Roaring Fork, 36-33.
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Like most high school sports programs across the nation right now, Garfield County athletics directors are seeing fewer applicants for open coaching positions. Five years ago vacant positions were filled within just a couple of days.