New era for Skiers football
ASPEN The controversial hiring of the new football coach is old news. After an offseason distinguished by off-the-field press, the regular season can’t arrive soon enough for Mike Sirko and his Aspen Skiers. The husband of Aspen’s Superintendent and one of the winningest prep coaches in Colorado for the past three decades, Sirko gets his first chance to make an impression on Aspen fans Friday night under the lights when the Skiers open the season against 3A Battle Mountain.Expect some good old “smashmouth” football and a new, aggressive attitude, the coach said Tuesday afternoon after leading his team through its seventh practice in eight days.”Keeping it simple, that’s what we’ve tried to do,” Sirko said. “Kids know they can release their brakes on Friday night and go out and play football if they know what they’re doing. [Last year] they had quite a few formations and things of that sort and a few defensive looks. We’re pretty much going to be in one standard defense, and offensively we’re probably going to have about 10 total plays. That’s kinda where it is right now.”To be certain, a new era is under way for Aspen’s fledgling football program, now six years into its second stint as a varsity sport at the high school.Sirko quickly pointed out that the rebuilding campaign at this, his eighth Colorado varsity program in 32 years, didn’t begin last week when two-a-days started, but rather in January. That’s when he showed up and instituted a new weightlifting program that quickly showed returning Aspen players how serious he was about turning around a program that has won just eight games in the last four years. There was also June’s “Brawn at Dawn” 10-day camp – which attracted a healthy 25-30 players.
Sirko’s enthusiasm and commitment to detail has quickly won his players over – and attracted a few new talented recruits.Six-foot-six all-state senior basketball star Cory Parker decided he wanted to suit up for the Skiers this fall after watching Sirko lead his new team through workouts at June’s camp.”It’s a whole new year,” said senior running back and captain Tucker Eason. “We look at it as a chance to prove ourselves. … I think we have a whole new mindset, and we’re going to go to work.”Eason is one of the top returners on a team that lost 13 seniors from last season, including five 2A Western Slope first teamers. That list includes do-everything running back Whit Fuller and mammoth offensive and defensive lineman David Clark.In Sirko’s new power I offense Eason will share carries with junior and fellow captain Beau Seguin – an all-league honorable mention last season. The two will line up behind senior fullback Adam Huber and take handoffs from sophomore quarterback Anderson Cole, a first-year starter.Sirko plans to start Parker at wide receiver and defensive end, using the senior’s height and agility to create mismatches on both sides of the ball. Senior Brian Westerlind – another honorable mention in 2006 – will be another big target for Cole, who Sirko said is fully capable of leading his quick-hitting, precise offense.”We feel very good about Anderson,” Sirko said. “He just needs to believe in himself, and we believe in him. It’s his football team, and he’s just got to take charge of it.”Eason, Seguin and Westerlind – who will all start on defense as well – said Sirko’s pared-down scheme has been easy to pick up.Seguin said the multiple formations and shifts used by outgoing coach Travis Benson last year led to confusion and the costly mistakes that led to a host of lopsided losses.
“Last year it was a lot of mental stuff,” he said of the team’s struggles. “We had 30 formations and a couple thousand plays. Now we broke it down to a few formations and a few plays. It’s powerhouse, and it’s going to work. Not because it’s complex but because we’re sticking it. We’re perfect.”At least that is the hope. The Skiers will only get nine practices in before Friday’s game, and the coach expects some jitters. Because of the school district’s experimental education program in the middle of the fall, Aspen is opening the season during a night when most other teams around the state will be playing scrimmages.It’s also playing a team in a higher classification that handed Aspen a humbling 35-2 loss last year in Eagle-Vail.”I think, like anything, you’d always like that extra week or you’d like a scrimmage before you play a team like this with someone close to their caliber,” Sirko said. “We just kind of gotta see where we’re at before we hit league, and I think these two opening games will kind of tell us.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
2006 record: 3-6 overall, 3-4 2A Western SlopeKey departures: RB Whit Fuller, WR Matt Beirne, OL/DL Dillon Morehead, OL/DL David ClarkKey returners: RB/LB Tucker Eason , RB/C Brian Westerlind , FB Adam Huber, CB Travis VanDomelen, G/DT Dylan Williams, LB Michael WagnerKey addition: WR/DE Cory ParkerCoach speak: “I think the big thing is that it depends on what they give us on defense. I’ve had teams where we threw for over 2,000 yards one season and teams that have thrown for 800. I’ve had teams that have rushed for over 3,000. It just depends on what they give us. Doing this a long time, what I do know is that we’re going to put the ball in the hands of the kids who can do something with it.” – Mike Sirko
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.