Football: Aspen rushes back into win column |

Football: Aspen rushes back into win column

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
Aspen High School senior Ryan Fitzgerald picks up a few of his 176 yards rushing Friday night in the Skiers' 34-14 victory over visitig Moffat County.
Christina Capasso/Special to The Aspen Times |

The Aspen Skiers rushed back into the victory column Friday night — literally.

The Aspen High School football team, returning to a ball-control running game, powered past visiting Moffat County 34-14 on senior night at the Aspen School District Stadium.

Senior Ryan Fitzgerald, unable to practice all week because of a lingering leg issue, celebrated his final game on home turf by plowing for 176 yards on 33 workmanlike carries and two touchdowns. He had another 45-yard touchdown run negated by penalty.

Putting together long, time-consuming possessions, the Skiers had drives of 16 plays, 13 plays, 9 plays and 8 plays (twice).

Aspen also picked up a defensive touchdown against the Bulldogs when senior Harry Ferguson stole the ball and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, extending Aspen’s 14-7 halftime lead to 28-7.

In all, the Skiers totaled 277 yards rushing, including 78 from senior Evan Morris (all in the first half).

Aspen scored on the first possession of the game after a 41-yard kickoff return by Ferguson.

Nick Morgan finished the nine-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on fourth down — giving the Skiers momentum and an early 7-0 lead, courtesy of John Heaphey’s extra point.

The lead grew to 14-0 after the Skiers scored on their next drive — saved by a Ryer Gardenswartz fumble recovery. Fitzgerald bulled in from a yard out for his first score.

Moffat County, behind quarterback Matt Hamilton, threatened on the next drive before an interception by Aspen’s Rennie Tucker-Muse stopped the march at the Aspen 14.

Aspen’s Chapin Newhard would collect a second interception for the Skiers’ defense right before halftime.

After Heaphey’s 37-yard field goal gave Aspen an 18-0 lead, the Bulldogs scored on a 25-yard run by Brett Loyd.

Heaphey opened the second half with a 22-yard field goal for the Skiers before Ferguson’s dramatic fumble return and a 28-7 lead with 3:26 to play in the third quarter.

Moffat County answered with a quick four-play, 80-yard scoring drive.

Shandon Hadley broke down the left sideline and ran 46 yards for a Bulldog touchdown. Hamilton’s conversion kick cut Aspen’s advantage to 27-14 with 2:14 still to go in the third.

Aspen senior quarterback Tyler Tick completed a 23-yard pass to Ferguson to key the next drive, which ended with Fitzgerald’s second touchdown of the game — the final score in the contest.

Aspen, with an additional 41 passing yards from Tick, improved to 2-2 in the Western Slope North League, 4-4 overall.

Moffat County’s loss produced identical records — 4-4 and 2-2.

Hadley led the Bulldogs with 68 rushing yards. Loyd added 56 as the Bulldogs totaled 185 rushing yards on 22 carries.

Hamilton was 4 of 13 passing for 75 yards with two interceptions. He also had a 47-yard touchdown pass to Kearn Gerber called back because of a penalty.

Aspen will close the regular season next Friday at Basalt. The Longhorns lost 53-28 Friday night at league-leading Battle Mountain.

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