Football: Aspen unbeaten no more
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
PEACH VALLEY, Colo. – Playing games that mean something in late October is something the Coal Ridge football team isn’t used to just yet. They became acquainted with it real fast against Aspen on Friday.
Junior running back Cody Walls finished with 268 all-purpose yards – including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to quash the Skiers’ comeback bid – and the Titans upset Aspen, 2A’s top-ranked team, 27-14.
“We’ve never really been here yet, that is playing games that mean something late in the season,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Parker said. “This is what we’ve talked about all spring and all summer. Now we’re there.”
And then some.
The Titans (6-2 overall, 3-2 league) not only controlled the game against Aspen a week after a 43-0 loss to Olathe, but they could move into second place in the league standings with a win at Basalt next Friday and a loss by Aspen.
The Skiers (7-1, 4-1) play a critical game at Olathe on Friday. A win would put them back in the driver’s seat for the league title.
The Titans hardly were intimidated Friday.
“We looked at them like they were just another football team. They’re humans, too,” said Walls, who also threw a 19-yard TD pass and had a
96-yard TD run. “Everyone’s beatable. We’re beatable. We know anyone can lose, and we came out with a lot of determination knowing that.”
The Titans kicked the Skiers out of the driver’s seat in this one, though. Coal Ridge forced turnovers on Aspen’s first two possessions – five all together – and scored on both of them. Walls’ triple-figure pick six, which came just when the Skiers appeared to be rallying, essentially sealed the win.
“They were going in for a second score there, and Cody made that great pick,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Parker said. “We had a couple of great blocks on that play, and Cody just did the rest.”
After the Titans had taken a 20-0 halftime lead, Daniel Ryerson capped a 14-play, 56-yard Aspen drive with a 4-yard plunge to bring the Skiers (7-1, 4-1) within two scores. Aspen forced a fumble on the Titans’ next possession, getting the ball on the Coal Ridge 17.
On the second play of the drive, Walls intercepted Rex Christensen’s pas at the goal line, dodged a few tackles near the 20 and raced to the end zone with 3 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Skiers’ offense was silent the rest of the game.
“We got behind early in the first two games of the year and still won, which is why I thought we could come back here,” said Aspen coach Mike Sirko. “But we made too many mistakes. When that kid returned the ball 100 yards for a TD, it ain’t meant to be.”
Ryerson finished with 89 rushing yards on 28 carries to lead the Skiers. Walls finished with 149 yards on 15 carries, and his 19-yard TD pass to McCade Cox in the first quarter was the Titans’ only completed pass.
Coal Ridge took control early thanks to Aspen’s early miscues. Colton Schelling intercepted a Christensen pass on Aspen’s second play from scrimmage and, two plays after that, Walls found Cox in the end zone on a halfback pass to give the Titans the lead for good with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Titans recovered an Aspen fumble on the second play of the Skiers’ next possession, and Alex Zupeck nailed a 42-yard field goal for a 10-0 Coal Ridge cushion. Aspen drove to the Coal Ridge 1 two possessions later but was stopped on a goal-line stand by the Titans, a huge early momentum swing that stopped a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
“We just blasted hard and looked for the ball the whole time. Just fundamental football,” Coal Ridge lineman Giovanni Hernandez said. “It was all about keeping their guys in front of us, and we did it the whole game.”
Three plays after the Titans’ defense held, Coal Ridge went up 17-0 on a 96-yard jaunt by Walls from the Wildcat formation.
“We want to win, and we have a lot of heart in our game,” Walls said. “We’ve wanted to turn this program around since the spring. We said after last season we were going to fight as hard as we could to get to this point, and we’ve done it.”
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