Prep football: Aspen flags down Roaring Fork 34-24
The Aspen Times
The Aspen High School football team survived a penalty-filled league opener at Roaring Fork on Friday night.
The Skiers, in a game delayed 30 minutes in the first half because of lightning, beat the Rams 34-24 to kick off the Western Slope North League season.
Nearly 40 penalties slowed the game that also was delayed for a second-half injury as well as homecoming halftime festivities in Carbondale.
The Skiers, behind the rushing of senior Ryan Fitzgerald, broke a 24-24 halftime tie in the Highway 82 rivalry game to take the victory.
Fitzgerald scored on the first play from scrimmage for the Skiers, bolting 79 yards for a touchdown.
He added a 40-yard run on Aspen’s second possession, which ended with a 44-yard field goal by John Heaphey, his longest of the season. Aspen led 10-0.
But Roaring Fork answered immediately with a touchdown drive, helped by 40 yards in Aspen penalties.
Jose Lopez scored from the 4-yard line for the Rams. A fake PAT kick produced a two-point conversion run by Aldo Pinella, and the Rams cut the early lead to 10-8 with 2:59 to play in the first quarter.
The Rams took a 16-10 lead when Pinella intercepted an Aspen pass and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown. Roaring Fork converted its second consecutive two-point conversion.
A 1-yard Fitzgerald TD run tied the score at 16-16 — when lightning delayed the game for 30 minutes.
After the delay, plus time for the teams to warm up again, Heaphey put Aspen ahead 17-16 with the PAT kick.
But there were more fireworks ahead in a first half that would end 24-24.
Matt Gregory scored for Aspen on a 1-yard run; Heaphey added the PAT; Aspen led 24-16.
Roaring Fork pulled even on a long pass from Tyler Spence to wide receiver Roy Benge. And another two-point conversion netted the halftime tie.
After the teams traded fumbles early in the third quarter, Aspen took the lead on a 53-yard touchdown run by Gregory. With Heaphey’s conversion, the Skiers led 31-24 with 3:29 to play in the third quarter.
They added to the lead early in the fourth quarter when Heaphey hit a 20-yard field goal after the Skiers recovered a Roaring Fork fumble.
The Aspen defense sealed the penalty-plagued victory with a big defensive stand with 4:00 to play.
Fitzgerald rushed for more than 220 yards, unofficially, adding to his conference-leading total.
RJ Peshek saw duty at quarterback for Aspen when Tyler Tick was forced out of the game in the second half.
Aspen, under first-year head coach Ryan Triece, improved to 1-0 in league play, 3-2 overall.
Roaring Fork moved to 2-4 overall, 0-1 in conference.
The Skiers will be back on the road next weekend for a game at Coal Ridge, west of New Castle.
Coal Ridge lost 30-6 at Basalt on Friday night.
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This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.