League title slips from Aspen’s grasp
To cap its improbable season with a 2A Western Slope title and an automatic state tournament bid, all the Aspen football team had to do was beat Gunnison on Friday.The Cowboys didn’t cooperate, however, turning a matchup between the league’s top two teams into a runaway. No. 6 Gunnison scored 14 points on two botched Aspen punts in the first half, held 1,200-yard rusher Tucker Eason in check and rolled on the ground and through the air in the second en route to the 41-12 victory.”We had too many turnovers, and we didn’t come to play like we have in past games,” Aspen defensive coordinator Ruben Burbach said. “We’re the team that usually turns the table, creates turnovers and capitalizes. Today, it was the other way around.”We gave a powerhouse the momentum, and it’s tough to gain it back. You can’t spot a team that good 14 points.”But that’s just what the No. 7 Skiers (6-2 overall, 5-1 conference) did. The Cowboys recovered the ball inside the Aspen 10-yard line on botched punts in the first and second quarters, and jumped out to a two-touchdown advantage. Aspen uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times.Eason scored on a two-yard touchdown run in the waning moments to trim the lead to 14-6 at the half. That deficit ballooned, however, during a second half in which Gunnison (7-1, 6-0) asserted itself on both sides of the ball, Burbach said.”They were a much better passing team than we thought,” he added. “We couldn’t get the ground game going, and they were in [Anderson Cole’s] face all game. Our defense was on the field too long.”Cole connected with wide receiver Cory Parker on a 15-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth, but the Skiers pulled no closer.”There were a lot of tears,” Burbach said. “There was a lot of hope. This was a big game, and we all thought we’d come out and play better. They all know they didn’t give their best effort.”Not all was lost Friday, however. Aspen still can earn a share of the Slope title if it beats Coal Ridge next Friday and Gunnison falters at home against Olathe. Even with a Cowboys win, the Skiers can lock up second place in the league with a victory over the 1-7 Titans.Burbach insisted his players will be focusing on Coal ridge, not on scoreboard watching, next week.”We really can’t concern ourselves with that,” he added. “Our focus is on Coal Ridge and shoring up our mistakes. “We still have a lot to play for.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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