State football playoffs kicking in
The Aspen Times
The state high school football playoffs kick into high gear today.
The Aspen Skiers, seeded No. 13 in the Class 2A state playoffs, will play at No. 4 seed Faith Christian at noon today in Arvada. The winner will advance to the state quarterfinals next weekend.
With the annual start of the 2A playoffs and a progression of the best teams playing the best teams, the football focus turns to the kicking game — punting, kickoffs and field goals.
“Oh, yes,” Aspen head coach Mike Sirko said. “The kicking game … that’s very important (in the playoffs).”
Sirko said the battle of field position in close games, in playoff games, often is determined by an aspect of the kicking game.
Or a mistake in the kicking game — like a blocked punt or extra point.
Sirko said the Skiers have counted on a pair of strong legs this season en route to their 6-3 overall record and Aspen’s seventh consecutive state playoff appearance.
Senior Henry Woodrow, who plays tight end and defensive end, handles the Skiers’ punting duties.
He unleashed his longest punt of the season last week when he boomed a 70-yarder, helped by a bounce and a roll, to flip the field against rival Basalt.
He’s averaging more than 36 yards per punt. And he’s dropped seven punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line during the nine games thus far.
Woodrow also has two receiving touchdowns this season.
When it comes to kickoffs, extra points and field goals, the Skiers turn to a double-sport athlete — junior John Heaphey.
Heaphey was a starter on the Aspen High School boys soccer team this fall.
He doubled up as the kicker for the AHS football team, managing to balance a busy schedule through the fall.
He answered Sirko’s early season question about the Skiers’ kicking game.
Heaphey converted 25 extra points for the Skiers this year.
He also converted 6 of 8 field goal attempts, including a 33-yarder (his longest of the season).
More importantly from a field-position standpoint, Heaphey’s strong leg produced 13 touchbacks this season.
Faith Christian will counter with the strong leg of senior Stefan Knoerr, who converted 34 of 36 PATs this year.
He also hit on 5 of 10 field goal attempts for the 7-2 Eagles. His longest came from 45 yards.
Knoerr also handles the punting duties for Faith Christian, although he wasn’t called on for many punts because of the prolific Eagles’ offense. He’s averaging 25 yards per punt.
Faith Christian, offensively, features a potent rushing game led by junior Daniel Langewisch (890 yards on 84 carries). He’s scored 15 touchdowns.
Teammate Adam Buchmann, a sophomore, rushed for 544 yards and nine TDs. Buchmann also has thrown for 368 yards, completing 26 of 51 passes for four touchdowns.
Senior Jonas Spitzer has scored seven touchdowns with his 402 rushing yards for Faith Christian, which has won three state titles in the last decade.
The Aspen-Faith Christian winner will move ahead to a second-round game against the winner of No. 12 Fort Lupton (6-4) at No. 5 Gunnison (7-2).
Undefeated Brush (8-0) is the overall No. 1 seed. The Beetdiggers will host The Academy (4-5), of Westminster, today.
The Brush-Academy winner will move to the second round to take on the winner of No. 8 Florence (7-2) against No. 9 Strasburg (7-2). Florence won the state title in 2011.
In the bottom half of the bracket, No. 2 Manitou Springs (9-0) will host No. 15 Jefferson (7-2) in the first round.
No. 7 Kent Denver (7-2), the defending 2A state champion, will host No. 10 Lamar (7-2) with the winner facing the Manitou-Jefferson winner in the second round Nov. 9.
No. 3 Platte Valley (7-1), of Kersey, will host No. 14 Ridge View Academy (4-4), of Watkins, today. Platte Valley finished second in the state playoffs a year ago.
The Platte Valley-Ridge View winner will play the winner of No. 11 Olathe (6-3) at No. 6 Bennett (7-2) in the second round of the Class 2A football playoffs.
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For Basalt, one of the preseason frontrunners in the Western Slope League, Friday’s loss puts its playoff hopes in jeopardy, while Aspen’s loss to the Bulldogs all but eliminates it from postseason contention.