Aspen stuns Huskies
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Aspen football coach Mike Sirko and principal Charlie Anastas embraced near midfield moments after the clock ran out in Friday’s season opener against Battle Mountain.
“Thanks for giving me the chance,” Sirko said, flashing an appreciative smile. “I know you went through hell for it.”
Things were heavenly on this night for the Skiers faithful, as the Sirko era got off to a sprinting start. Aspen, led by a hard-hitting defense and a simple, yet efficient offense, reeled off a 40-20 victory, avenging a 35-2 loss to the 3A Huskies in last year’s opener.
The result was so surprising that the large crowd ” and even the players on the sidelines ” were unusually silent in the waning minutes. That is, until they swarmed onto the turf after the final horn.
“I was even surprised. We looked up and saw four minutes on the clock, and we were up by 20 points,” Sirko said. “I’m so proud of the way we played. We had incredible intensity and played like a veteran football team.”
The Skiers looked like a 2A team brimming with confidence despite having just 10 practice days and no scrimmage. After stopping the Huskies on their first two possessions ” Aspen’s Tucker Eason dragged Battle Mountain quarterback Todd Walker down on fourth down, and then the Skiers forced a punt ” Aspen strung together a 13-play, six-minute drive to pull ahead.
The Skiers gave the Battle Mountain offense a steady dose of tailbacks Eason and Beau Seguin, and mixed in a few short passes to march 83 yards. They converted on third down three times during the drive; Eason took a handoff from sophomore quarterback Anderson Cole and bulled his way up the middle for the touchdown.
Brian Westerlind’s extra point gave Aspen the 7-0 advantage one minute into the second quarter.
The Huskies needed just one play to even the score. Tailback Ryan Hedrick, who rushed for 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, took the handoff and bounced outside, evading the Aspen defense during a 94-yard run down the right sideline.
“We were definitely moving the ball,” said first-year Huskies coach Jason Sedlak. “We expected to come in here and play a good football game. This is by no means a setback.”
Battle Mountain’s momentum didn’t last long. three minutes later, Cole was flushed out of the pocket but found fullback Adam Huber underneath; Huber dashed for the sideline, slowed to evade a defender and walked into the end zone, giving the Skiers the 13-7 advantage.
An opportunistic Aspen defense took advantage of an errant pass to widen the lead.
Five-foot-4-inch freshman cornerback Nick Ufkes picked off a deflected pass and rumbled 80 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown with 40 seconds remaining in the half.
“He’s a monster out there,” Sirko joked. “The defense did a great job. All 11 were flying around and making things happen.”
The Skiers didn’t stop there. They opened the half with an eight-play 79-yard drive to take a 26-7 lead. Eason found the end zone for a second time on a one-yard run moments after Seguin caught a slant pass, broke outside and nearly stretched the ball over the right pylon.
Cole, who avoided the Battle Mountain rush all game, delivered a perfect five-yard pass to Seguin in the left corner with 1:51 to play in the third to stretch the advantage to 26.
“That was fun,” Eason said. “We didn’t have expectations coming in, but we all believed we could win and worked hard. Still, I’m kind of shocked.”
The surprises continued. Aspen cornerback Walker Hill stepped in front of a pass at the Skiers 47, and took the ball 20 yards the opposite way.
Seguin took the snap from under center on a fourth-and-three play on the ensuing drive, spring loose for a six-yard gain and a first down at the Huskies 12-yard line. He then gave way to Eason, who took a handoff, rushed up the middle then broke outside for an easy six.
Westerlind converted the extra point to give Aspen the 40-13 lead ” and the most points the team has scored since being reinstated as a varsity program six seasons ago.
Two late Battle Mountain touchdowns on runs from sophomore tailback Josh Kundolf did little to quell the excitement on the Skiers sideline.
Batle Mountain has next week off to regroup for its conference opener at Moffat County Sept. 7.
Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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