Meeker takes down injury-riddled Aspen High football team, 42-20
Down a handful of key playmakers because of injury, the Aspen High School football team faced an uphill battle against Meeker, ranked No. 4 in Class 1A. And much like in last week’s season opener against Bayfield, a 37-20 loss, that grind became too much for the Skiers over a full four quarters.
The Cowboys piled it on late, going on to win 42-20 on Friday on the AHS turf.
“Our kids played hard,” Aspen coach Travis Benson said. “I am tremendously proud of them. They have nothing to hang their hat about. They are playing through adversity right now. They are showing grit.”
Aspen played without starting quarterback Tyler Ward, starting running back Jack Seamans and top receiver Max Ufkes, all sidelined by injury. Senior Jon Haisfield, who also is one of their top receiving options, started at quarterback.
It was an ugly affair to start, with numerous penalties and turnovers highlighting the first quarter, which ended when Aspen fumbled the ball into the Meeker end zone as it was about to take the lead. Scoreless after a quarter, the Cowboys finally found pay dirt when Kelton Turner ran one in from 5 yards out to make it 8-0.
Aspen answered right back when Kip Royer returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, the 2-point conversion making it 8-all midway through the second quarter. Meeker took the momentum into the locker room, however, after quarterback Ryan Phelan ran for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 16-8 Cowboys at halftime.
“It’s nice to see our kids fight, and fight to the end,” Benson said. “And they did. They are showing a lot of character.”
Trailing 24-8 after a short TD run by Jeremy Woodward to open the third quarter, Aspen’s offense began to answer back. Dillon Hendrickson scored on a short run to make it 24-14 with about five minutes to play in the third, but the AHS defense couldn’t get the stop it needed.
The teams would swap a pair of touchdowns soon after, Aspen’s coming on a 36-yard pass and catch from Haisfield to Noah Akin that made it 30-20 in favor of Meeker after three quarters. The Cowboys put in a couple more scores in the fourth to put the game away.
Meeker, now 3-0, will host Limon next week. Limon (2-0) is ranked No. 1 in 1A this week and is the reigning state champion.
“Meeker is one heck of a football team. There is no question about that,” Benson said. “I’m their biggest fan next week when Limon comes to town. I want them to have the greatest success. They came out and they played hard.”
Aspen (0-2) heads on the road for the first time next week to play at Class 1A Cedaredge.
“It’s guys grinding through and playing for each other. That’s truly what these guys are doing right now,” Benson said. “You start losing a couple of guys here and there, a lot of things change. I don’t care where you are in this state, it changes your team a little bit. We’ll start getting some guys back here soon and start getting things rolling again.”
In other Class 2A Western Slope League games on Friday, No. 3 Delta (2-0) stuck out with a 61-0 win over Salida (0-3). Salida knocked Aspen out of the playoffs a year ago. Moffat County (2-0) rolled to a 42-13 win over Steamboat Springs and Coal Ridge (1-2) lost 7-6 to Hotchkiss.
Rifle (2-0), ranked No. 2 in 2A, had a bye this week. Basalt (1-0) hosts Battle Mountain on Saturday afternoon.
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.