Moffat County football soaked by Aspen Skiers
ASPEN — The latter half of the high school football season in Colorado usually brings with it an onslaught of unfavorable fall weather, and though Moffat County and Aspen competitors weren’t surprised by the conditions Friday night, that didn’t make it much more fun.
At least for one side.
MCHS lost to the Skiers 51-7 during a cold, wet match that was no easy task for either side as they were each still smarting from a defeat.
Both teams opened up 2A Western Slope League play with losses; the Bulldogs 33-13 against Basalt the previous Saturday, whereas Aspen stood close with Delta only to fall 49-40 during their Sept. 28 road game.
Each side’s plans for a reversal of fortune in a new week was apparent in their start to the evening. Bulldogs took the opening kick and were quick to get in Aspen territory with big catches by Cale Scranton and Victor Silva, but the decision to go ahead on 4th and 3 kept them at the Skiers’ 43.
Aspen didn’t need long to put something together, and a draw play by Trey Fabrocini got the Skiers ahead perhaps even faster than they expected with a 44-yard touchdown sprint. Quarterback Tyler Ward kept it on the two-point conversion to lead 8-0 for an advantage they would hold all night.
Though only trailing 16-0 in the first quarter after the Skiers scored again on a 17-yard pass from Ward to Noah Hollander, MoCo caught a break with an Aspen fumble recovered by Colby Beaver. Still, once they were forced to punt again, a 30-yard reception by Max Ufkes had the Skiers back in the red zone at the close of the period.
Fabrocini opened the second quarter with a five-yard run TD, and Aspen found itself on the march again with a Bulldog fumble on the kick return, grabbed by Skier Trey Thorpe. A holding penalty against Moffat was extra salt in the wound as the Skiers started on the Dogs’ 14 as Ward found Ufkes in the far corner of the end zone from there.
A triple-digit night for the Skier receiver also included a catch for half the field on the Skiers’ next drive to make it 39-0, one point from the running clock mercy rule, which began ticking after Jack Seamans scored on a 15-yard catch following Noah Hollander’s 60-yard pull-down.
The drizzle that came just before game time was sheets of rain by halftime to add to the MoCo woes, but even with a second half that flew by, they made it work while playing for pride.
The Skiers took out starter Ward and replaced him with Jon Riesfield, whom Jared Baker and Angel Rodriguez sacked in quick succession, forcing Aspen to punt for the first time.
The Bulldogs grit their teeth, and a 38-yard catch by Scranton from Beaver finally got the momentum in their direction, a push that ended with Kevin Hernandez scoring from two yards on a dive play with only about five minutes remaining on the ever-present clock.
Haisfield connected with Seamans from 10 for the final score of the night, while Bulldogs nearly made another trip into the end zone as coach Jamie Nelson put in freshman Ryan Peck at QB, gaining a much-needed 19 yards in his first varsity game in the position.
“He got in there, threw the ball, slung those passes just like we needed him to. I was impressed,” Nelson said of Peck. “He didn’t even have a chance to be nervous.”
Peck admitted there was no avoiding a bit of anxiety, but he didn’t want it to overwhelm him.
“Once you settle into that atmosphere, everything falls in line and works good,” he said. “At that point, you’re just trying to get some points on the board.”
He added that the Skiers were “firing on all cylinders” in the first half while the opening effort by the Dogs was not where it needed to be.
“Just that differential alone is going to kill you eventually,” Peck said.
Nelson said Aspen’s notorious passing game was one he expected to be an issue, though more often than not, his players were performing their coverage right.
“There’s no way our defensive backs could have been in better position than if the ball was thrown right to them,” he said.
He also knew the Aspen ground game was no joke.
“That’s the hard part is if you take away the passing, then they run, and you’ve got to figure out the balance,” he said.
Despite the increasing precipitation, Aspen’s spirits couldn’t have been higher, coach Travis Benson said, especially after last week’s defeat.
“I was a little worried with this being a sandwich game for us between two of the mighty foes of the conference, but offense, defense, special teams, all three were clicking for us tonight. I’m extremely proud of these boys working hard and executing like this at home even in this weather,” he said.
Benson noted he was impressed with MCHS’s effort and insistence to score with the deficit being what it was.
“They’ve got a lot of young kids, and for us, it took two years to really get going with learning our offense. They’ll get there,” he said.
A rough night for the Dogs showed in the statistics. With three players taking snaps, Beaver was seven for 16 in passing with 75 yards, with Peck three for six. Scranton, who caught for 64 yards, only threw once, connecting for three to Dario Alexander.
Hernandez rushed for 28 yards on nine carries, the only Bulldog in the backfield to get double digits.
With every other play a breakout for Aspen in the first half and a shortened second half, MoCo tackles were far fewer than usual, led by Baker with six, while Rodriguez and Dagan White each had four.
The 4-2 Skiers will have their work cut out for them in the coming week, next traveling to Rifle Oct. 12. The Bears improved to 6-0 with a 44-7 win over Delta.
Oct. 12 also sees the 2-4 Bulldogs look for a victory on the road against Coal Ridge, the Titans taking a 34-0 loss Friday to Basalt in the Longhorns’ fourth shutout.
Nelson said he’s expecting a good game in New Castle, the final bit of travel for varsity’s regular season, though he hopes athletes will combine their never-say-die attitude with a stronger start.
“They never truly give up, and I’d like to see them come out better at the get-go, but I’ve never seen them throw in the towel,” he said. “That resiliency is there.”
A blend of Northwest Colorado imagery and splashy colors now greets Craig drivers and pedestrians.