Football: Aspen looks to bounce back against Olathe
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – While the disappointment of last week’s loss to Coal Ridge stings, Aspen head football coach Mike Sirko insists he and his players have moved on.
Friday’s home game needs their full attention.
There is much at stake.
Defending state champion Olathe comes calling at 7 p.m. The winner of this tussle between 2A Western Slope heavyweights will have an inside track on securing a league title with just one regular season game remaining.
“It’s been a long week, but that’s over now,” Sirko said Thursday. “Now, it comes down to Olathe and us again. We’ll see where we’re at. I’ll tell you what, we feel fortunate to be in Game 9 and still have a chance to play for a league title.”
Aspen (6-2 overall, 4-1 conference) rebounded from Sept. 16’s humbling loss to Hotchkiss in impressive fashion, reeling off four straight wins to vault to the top of the Slope. Things took a turn for the worse last Friday against the Titans, however.
The mistake-prone, injury riddled Skiers lacked their usual energy and “didn’t come ready to play,” Sirko admitted. It cost them in the waning seconds, when Coal Ridge returned an interception for a game-winning touchdown.
The loss dropped Aspen into a tie with Olathe (5-3,
4-1) – and out of The Denver Post media poll’s top 10.
“It didn’t seem like we had that fire in the belly that we have to play with to be successful,” Sirko said. “We made some mistakes and had a couple bad breaks. … Bottom line: We played hard, but we just didn’t play well.
“The kids are disappointed with how they played. The coaches are, too, but I think we all still believe.”
The Skiers’ record was not the only thing to take a hit last week. Lineman Jake Gallaher dislocated his knee cap,and receiver Quinn Morehead, who had three catches for 123 yards in the opening half, sat out the second after injuring his shoulder. Gallaher underwent surgery Thursday and is out for the season. Morehead is still having trouble lifting his arm, Sirko said. The senior practiced sparingly Thursday and is doubtful for tonight’s game.
“Those are both big losses. We’ve been running behind [Gallaher] all year … and Quinn is our No. 1 offensive weapon by far,” the coach added. “That’s why I’m kind of melancholy today.”
Sirko said Aspen will need to curtail its turnovers and generate some balance on offense if it is to top Olathe, which has won two straight since a head-scratching loss to Roaring Fork.
“They don’t have that one big-play kid like they had last year … but they’re still big and physical,” Sirko said. “They may be more of a smash-mouth team than they have been. They have a decent quarterback that can hurt you throwing the ball, and they like to come at you and go behind those big boys up front.”
The challenge will be formidable but, after a strong week of practice, Sirko expects his Skiers to be ready.
“We’ve been telling the kids to release the brakes and go have some fun,” he said. “The kids know what’s at stake. They know this is a chance to bounce back and get with the program. This is a great opportunity.
“We’ll go out and battle our asses off. I hope it’s enough.”
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