Friday night fight under the lights
ASPEN A newcomer to Aspen and Basalts rivalry, but no stranger to big games, first-year Skiers football coach Mike Sirko was succinct Wednesday when asked what will decide Friday nights upper-valley showdown. Its about controlling the football and being more physical up front, Sirko said of the 2A Western Slope league opener for both teams, which, if any more intrigue were needed, also happens to be Aspens homecoming game. Theyve beaten us the last couple of years because theyve been more physical. Weve gotta control the ball on offense, and weve gotta get some three-and-outs defensively. Basalt coach Forrest Grosh, seemingly speaking from the same coaching handbook, said nearly the same thing after his teams practice Wednesday. The Longhorns have had their way in the previous three meetings with Aspen, the most recent of which was a 27-8 rout last year in Basalt. In two nonleague losses to open the season, however, the Longhorns have given up key turnovers and have struggled to slow offensive attacks both things theyll have to do if they expect to win Friday night, Grosh said. The key for us is taking care of the football, Grosh said. The last two games, weve just had way too many turnovers that have halted drives and kept us from putting points on the board. The one thing weve been working on this week is not giving them the ball, and keeping possession when we earn it.
Both Aspen (1-1) and Basalt (0-2) have lost to 1A Grand Valley in the past two weeks, both by similar scores. Going off that, Fridays game should be a close one.Or not considering the fickle nature of rivalry games. The Skiers were tied with the Cardinals, 7-7, at the half on Aug. 31 before being worn down in the second and losing, 28-14. If not for a 90-yard touchdown return from Beau Seguin near the end of regulation, the margin of defeat for the Skiers would have been nearly the same as Basalts, which fell to Grand Valley at home Friday, 26-6. Basalt had five turnovers in the loss and failed to score on offense, avoiding a shutout with an interception return. From taking in Aspens 40-20 opening win against 3A Battle Mountain, and game tape of the Skiers loss to Grand Valley, Grosh said he expects a much tougher test than last year. In 2006, Basalt led 28-0 and had its second-string defense in when Aspen scored its first touchdown of the season adding a little polish to a humbling beating for the Skiers.
Theyre a different team than in years past, Grosh said. Their offense is quick to the ball, and they dont mess around. Theyre determined in terms of getting to the line of scrimmage and getting the ball snapped. They dont wait for the defense. I can see change in terms of attitude, too. You can see some of the kids have bought in. Some of the things we saw against Battle Mountain, we havent see in the past few years. Sirko said he doesnt expect Basalt to deviate from its winning formula against the Skiers in recent years. Its nothing pretty just some smashmouth football. If the Skiers expect to win, they have to keep answering the bell, Sirko said. They obviously want to run the football, Sirko said of the Longhorns. Thats what theyre going to do, and weve got to stop them. Were hoping we can do that. Were not going to stop them all the time, its just a matter of crucial situations. Youve got to make some great stops if youre going to win a game like this. Grosh said he has tried to preach to his players that Friday nights game could be the turning point in their season, but only if they play up to their abilities. Mentally, its our first league game of the season, he said. Even though were 0-2, we can still reach our goal of the playoffs, and it all starts Friday. The kids are always excited for rivalry games like this, against Aspen and Roaring Fork. Its a different level because they do know each other, and some of them are friends, and some of them arent. Nate Petersons e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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