Ufkes runs wild in Aspen’s rout of Grand Valley
ASPEN – Asthma and leg cramps could not slow Aspen tailback Nicky Ufkes on Friday night.Visiting Grand Valley had no luck either.The diminutive junior ran wild against the Cardinals, piling up a school-record 303 yards on the ground. He found the end zone four times in the first half, twice more in the third quarter and even picked off a pass for good measure. A game billed as a battle of 2A Western Slope heavyweights rapidly turned into a lopsided affair, as the high-powered Skiers rolled, 54-13.”They were physical up front and ran right at us,” Cardinals head coach Mike Johnson said. “They smashed us in the mouth.”One week after he rushed for 262 yards on a school-record 42 carries in a win at Cedaredge, Ufkes was off and running early Friday. He scored on short runs on the first two offensive possessions to give the Skiers a 14-0 advantage after just seven minutes. Grand Valley (4-2) responded with an 11 play, 83-yard drive that quarterback Ryan Gallegos capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Radel. Aspen drove the ball deep into Cardinals territory on the ensuing possession, but were turned away when Jerrod Busch came down with a tipped pass from Skiers quarterback Anderson Cole in the end zone. Gallegos handed the ball right back to Aspen when he tried to fit the ball into a tight window on second-and-18 and was picked off by Taylor Mayer, who earlier recovered a fumble. The Skiers (5-1), ranked ninth in The Denver Post’s latest state poll, wasted little time getting the ball into the hands of their biggest home run hitter. After Ufkes rushed up the middle for 3, he found a seam on the ensuing hand-off, bounced outside and sprinted 31 yards to the end zone, stretching the lead to 20-6 with 7:19 to play before halftime.”Last week, we had a breakthrough as far as running the ball,” Ufkes said. “The O-line really stepped up again, so it was an easy decision for coach to keep running the ball. … Once I got past the line of scrimmage, I was home free. There were a lot of blocks.” Ufkes scored from 7 yards out in the final minute of the half to give the Skiers a comfortable 27-6 cushion at the break.”Every adjustment we tried to make didn’t work,” Johnson said. “We knew they would run, but we didn’t know they’d run this well. … I guess we thought we could slow them down.”Little could slow the Aspen offensive attack on this frigid night. Cole, who was picked off twice in the first 24 minutes, hooked up with wide receiver Andrew Papenfus for a 31-yard score on the opening drive of the second half. Later, after he picked off Gallegos, Ufkes found a seam and burst up the sideline for a 32-yard score, giving the Skiers a 40-6 lead with seven minutes to play in the third.Ufkes added a 64-yard touchdown scamper in the quarter’s final minute, shedding multiple tacklers along the way, before he and the rest of the first-team offense gave way to the junior varsity.”I ran the same three or four plays on all the drives. We only have about six,” Skiers head coach Mike Sirko joked. “The offense was phenomenal. They kept the football, and that put a lot of pressure on them. … We’re becoming a little juggernaut.”I was just so impressed with how our kids came out ready to play. You never know, but I believed they were ready. … They were relentless.”Junior Joe O’Callaghan scored from 6 yards out in the early stages of the final quarter to give the Skiers a 41-point lead.Grand Valley, which has scored 26 or more points four times this season, struggled all night to move the ball. The Cardinals had limited success through the air, particularly on short screen passes. Gallegos hooked up with Eric Glaze on one such play that went for 42 yards and a score late in the third quarter. But all hopes of keeping pace with the Skiers, a team Grand Valley beat, 33-20, last fall in Parachute, were impeded by five costly turnovers.”We got things going, then would make a poor decision, have a big sack,” Johnson said. “We can’t do that. We’re too fragile, and too young up front.”The Cardinals will look to rebound against 1-5 Roaring Fork next Friday. The Rams topped Basalt, 23-20, on Friday. Longhorns head coach Carl Frerichs did not return calls seeking comment.The Skiers will have a much stiffer challenge next week: A tussle with reigning state champion Olathe at 7 p.m. The Pirates (6-0) routed Cedaredge, 55-0, on Friday.”It’s the biggest game of the year,” Ufkes said. “By the time Friday rolls around, we’ll be ready.”email@example.com
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