Record night for Aspen tailback Ufkes
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – How much faith does the Aspen football team have in Nicky Ufkes?
The Skiers faced a third and 14 near midfield two minutes into the second quarter of Friday’s regular-season finale against visiting Coal Ridge. The Titans’ defense – and everyone else – likely were expecting pass. Aspen called a halfback counter.
No matter the situation, handing off to No. 26 is always the best play in the book.
Ufkes took the ball, burst through a hole and sprinted untouched for 53 yards to score one of his four first-half touchdowns.
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Later in the quarter, on a typical hard-nosed 11-yard scamper up the middle, the diminutive junior achieved one substantial milestone, becoming the first player in program history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Ufkes’ 234 yards rushing helped propel the Skiers (8-2) to a 54-0 rout.
“It’s truly a humbling feeling,” a beaming Ufkes said afterward, pausing sporadically to exchange hugs with family and teammates. “At the same time, the offensive line did a great job. This has really been a team effort.”
Ufkes might be modest, but his numbers are unquestionably staggering. He has rushed for more than 300 yards twice in 2009, and Friday’s effort was his sixth game with 200 or more yards. He has scored 27 touchdowns – second on the school’s all-time list behind Beau Seguin (32 in 2008).
“He’s been a warrior all year for us,” said Aspen coach Mike Sirko, whose team clinched a third-consecutive 2A state playoff berth after last week’s win in Gunnison. “Pound for pound, he’s the strongest kid out there. … It’s sweet to have a guy like him [accomplish this feat]. The kids pull for him, and he pulls for them. He’s such a hard worker.”
Ufkes was working hard early Friday, rushing six times on the Skiers’ eight-play opening drive. He capped things off with an 8-yard touchdown run. He scored from 3 yards out on the first play of the second quarter to stretch Aspen’s lead to 20.
Later in the second, Ufkes shook free for 29 yards on a first and 10 at the Skiers’ 22, then took a toss from quarterback Anderson Cole on the ensuing snap and rumbled 49 yards for the score. Cole added a touchdown on a 4-yard keeper 19 seconds before the half.
Ufkes wasn’t the only Aspen player to come up with a big play during a first half in which the Skiers scored 41 points. On the Titans’ opening possession, Aspen linebacker Matt Holmes picked off quarterback Jon Forristal’s attempted screen pass on fourth down and sprinted 75 yards the other way for the score.
Coal Ridge turned the ball over on fourth of its five first-half possessions, and three more times in the second.
Ufkes ran for 11 yards on his only carry of the second half before jogging off to a chorus of cheers. Later, teammates doused him with ice water.
Ufkes is believed to be the only 2,000-yard rusher to play for Sirko.
“He’s done a magnificent job of carrying this team on his shoulders and has shown a tremendous amount of commitment,” Ufkes said of his head coach. “It’s definitely an honor [to play for him]. I wouldn’t want to be running for anyone else.”
Daniel Ryerson and Nick Fuller added scoring runs of 8 and 6 yards, respectively, during the second half for the Skiers, who have won three straight games since Oct. 16’s 52-26 loss to defending state champion Olathe. Aspen is averaging nearly 46 points per game during that stretch, and Ufkes has accounted for 10 touchdowns.
Now, the Skiers will set their sights on postseason play. The 16-team field will be announced Sunday afternoon.
“We’re back in the show,” Sirko said. “Hopefully we can make some noise.”
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