Football league play opens

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

The road-tested Aspen High School football team will open the Western League season tonight — on the road, of course.

The Skiers (1-1) will make the long bus trip to Pagosa Springs (6 hours, plus) for tonight’s 7 p.m. kickoff against the 0-2 Pirates.

“Each week, it’s hard to really know what to expect with the numbers game we have,” veteran Aspen head coach Mike Sirko said. “Again this week, we’ve got players in different spots.”

Hopefully, he said, the Skiers will have a couple of players back from injury.

“For us, heading into Week 3, it’s how we adjust each week as a football team,” Sirko said. “With the changes, the big thing for us is we have to keep it simple.”

He said the Skiers need to focus on their responsibilities and continue to work together as a team as they open the conference season with a long road trip.

The Skiers are coming off a tough 20-17 loss at Roaring Fork in a nonconference game last weekend.

“We’ve had pretty good prep this week,” Sirko said. “We’ll try to do a few things differently. But overall, I feel like we had a good week of practice .”

He said a number of Skiers who had not played before picked up valuable game experience in the nonleague game at Carbondale.

Aspen had opened the season with another long road trip and a 39-12 win at Ignacio.

Sirko said he expects a tough game at Pagosa Springs against a senior-laden Pirates team.

“Like us, their numbers are way down,” Sirko said. “I hope that in the fourth quarter, we still have a shot at it.”

The starting of the conference season adds to the importance of tonight’s matchup, particularly in a season when the Western League teams have struggled to find wins thus far.

Aspen and defending league champion Bayfield own the only two victories by Western League teams this year.

Bayfield beat Class 1A Dolores and lost to Kirtland Central, a 3A school in New Mexico.

The other Western League teams all are 0-2: Basalt, Gunnison, Olathe, Pagosa Springs, Grand Valley and Coal Ridge.

Basalt will travel to Bayfield tonight for the Longhorns’ season opener.

“We know it’ll be a wild ride (in the Western League this season),” Sirko said. “A lot of teams are trying to find themselves.”

A big incentive for the Skiers on today’s long trip to Pagosa Springs awaits next week, Sirko said.

“We finally get a home game next week,” Sirko said.

Aspen will host Bayfield on Sept. 20, taking on the Wolverines, who reached the state semifinals last year and the state championship game in 2011.

Aspen will host Olathe on Sept. 27 before another road trip to Gunnison on Oct. 4.

The Skiers wil host Coal Ridge on Oct. 11 and travel to Grand Valley on Oct. 18 before hosting Basalt in the regular-season finale Oct. 25.