Football: Aspen rushes back into win column
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.
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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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The Basalt High School cross country team traveled to California this past week to compete in the 2021 Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, hosted by Woodbridge High School just outside of Los Angeles. The race was held at the SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco.