Prep football: Aspen flags down Roaring Fork 34-24

Dale Strode
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.