Football: Aspen scores 28 unanswered, downs Basalt |

Football: Aspen scores 28 unanswered, downs Basalt

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesSkiers running back Casey Hornburg scores a touchdown in the second half Friday night at Aspen High School.

ASPEN – Without divulging details, Aspen head coach Mike Sirko admitted that things “got a little ugly” in the locker room at halftime Friday. Assistant Rueben Burbach later joked that he owed the school a chair.

Whatever transpired inside those walls paid major dividends between the lines in the second half. A visibly energized Skiers squad forced three turnovers in the final 24 minutes – and five total – scored 28 unanswered to erase a six-point deficit and rolled against Basalt,


“It was inspirational,” junior running back Casey Hornburg said of his coaches’ impassioned halftime speeches. “We were in a brawl, and we had to step up our game and play with them. We had to keep fighting. … Coach Sirko told us we had to come out swinging.”

Aspen (5-1), 2A’s seventh-ranked team, hit its downvalley rivals hard on both sides of the ball in the second half.

After Bertilio Garcia nailed a 34-yard field goal – his second of the night – on the opening possession of the third quarter to give the Longhorns a 13-7 advantage, the Skiers’ offense went to work.

With quarterback Tucker Beirne at the controls and Hornburg shouldering much of the load, Aspen marched 80 yards in 12 plays; Hornburg put the Skiers ahead,

14-13, when he sidestepped a defender and scored from 2 yards out.

Facing a third-and-3 on the ensuing possession, Basalt quarterback J.R. Krueger rolled out and tried to sprint for the sticks; Aspen cornerback Quinn Morehead closed in an instant and dragged Krueger down about 2 yards shy of the markers, forcing a punt.

The Skiers seized the momentum. Hornburg capped off another long scoring drive with a 1-yard scamper, stretching the lead to eight. He rushed for 190 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns.

“We were running the ball probably the best we have all year,” Hornburg said. “The blockers were opening big holes, and I was just doing my job. … Whatever I have to do to help the team win, I’ll do it.”

Later, following an interception from Brendan Wagner with 6 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Hornburg all but put this game out of reach when he burst through a gaping hole in the middle of a visibly gassed Longhorns defense and sprinted untouched 26 yards up the near sideline for the score.

“The O-line really came together in the second half,” Sirko said. “And you know me, I don’t mind running the ball a few times.”

Added Basalt cornerback Zach Mobilian, who missed an extended stretch of the second half while battling cramps in both legs: “We just had a lot of players go down to injury. Aspen was hitting, and there wasn’t much we could do.”

Wagner jumped a route and picked off a Krueger pass with 1:41 to play, returning it 35 yards the opposite way to stretch the lead to 35-13 – and make the Skiers’ first-half struggles a fading memory.

“We were pretty resilient. The kids are in good shape, they work hard and in that second half we just took over,” Sirko said. “I really feel like the kids came out and played like they can.”

That was not the case during a lackluster first half reminiscent of last week’s game against Grand Valley, when Aspen nearly squandered a big lead.

This time around, save for an eight-play, 55-yard first-quarter drive capped by a

seven-yard touchdown strike from Beirne to receiver Dan Schwartz, the Skiers struggled to gain much traction offensively. They punted on five of six first-half possessions and amassed -14 yards total their final four times with the ball.

Mobilian shook free for a 50-yard rushing score with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter to square the game, then Garcia split the uprights from 45 yards out in the final minute of the half to send the Longhorns (3-3) into the locker room with a three-point cushion.

“Give the Basalt kids credit. They came out, punched us in the mouth and played well in the first half,” Sirko said.

Added Mobilian: “We knew coming in we could play with this team, play with anyone. It just sucks the way it ended. … This is a game I’ve been looking forward to since I was a freshman.”

Beirne completed 12 of 23 passes for 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Wide receiver Quinn Morehead caught five passes for 83 yards for the Skiers, who visit Cedaredge next Friday.

Basalt will visit Grand Valley.

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