Football: Aspen runs past Cortez in opener
The Aspen Times
Playing under a full moon, in front of a big home crowd, the Aspen Skiers put a spell on visiting Montezuma-Cortez High School in the home football opener Friday night.
The Skiers, with 129 yards rushing and three touchdowns from senior tailback Nik Morgan, defeated the no-punt Panthers 29-12 at Aspen School District Stadium.
The Aspen High School football team scored first on a 28-yard Morgan run in the first quarter after the Skiers took over on downs at the Cortez 28-yard line — a foreshadowing of the Panthers’ no-punt philosophy.
Morgan scored again on a 1-yard run in the second quarter after the visiting Panthers had cut the lead to 8-6 on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Cordell Ridings to Coby Baer.
Morgan’s second TD at the end of a 14-play drive, along with a two-point conversion pass from RJ Peshek to tight end Tristan Niskanen, gave Aspen a 16-6 halftime lead.
The Panthers cut the margin to 16-12 with a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive through the third and fourth quarters, spanning 7 minutes on the clock.
Baer score on a 1-yard run for the TD; the Panthers’ conversion run failed.
On the ensuing possession, the Skiers pushed the ball deep into Cortez territory before turning the ball back to the Panthers.
But the Cortez offense stalled, and the no-punt Panthers steadfastly refused to punt again, falling short on fourth down at their own 12-yard line.
The Skiers promptly extended the lead with a 12-yard, three-play drive and Morgan’s third touchdown of the game.
The kick failed, and Aspen led 22-12.
The Skiers closed the contest with a 47-yard Jake Ferlisi touchdown run with 1:47 to play in the nonconference opener.
Morgan, with Ferlisi in front as the fullback, gained 77 yards in the first half with Noah Langhoff, Jack Huggard, Ryan Sovich, James Kistner, among others, leading the blocking.
The Panthers were paced by quarterback Ridings, who ran and scrambled for 101 yards on 21 carries Friday night.
The Skiers will hit the road to Parachute next Friday night to take on Grand Valley in another nonleague game.
The Skiers, under second-year head coach Ryan Triece, opened the year 1-0.
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There might be part of Hailey Swirbul that is finally beginning to believe she belongs. The 22-year-old cross-country skier is coming off quite a stretch with the U.S. ski team, one that includes her first career World Cup podium and a successful go in the notorious Tour de Ski stage race.