No. 3 BHS to host No. 8 Aspen in another football first

Bayfield High School’s season in the inaugural Western League will feature a number of football firsts.

Last weekend, the Wolverines played at Basalt for the first time in BHS football history. They won 42-0 in their first Western League game.

Tonight, the Wolverines will host their first Western League game ever against a football opponent visiting Bayfield for the first time ever – Aspen.

The 7 p.m. matchup at Wolverine Country Stadium will mark the first Western League meeting between two teams ranked in the top 10 in the state.

Bayfield (3-0), the state runner-up last year, is ranked No. 3 in the Class 2A poll this week by The Denver Post.

Aspen (3-0), a perennial playoff qualifier under veteran coach Mike Sirko, is ranked No. 8.

The Skiers lost to Eaton 49-20 in the first round of the 2A playoffs last year. Bayfield knocked off Eaton 15-14 one week later at Wolverine Country Stadium in the state quarterfinals.

Aspen, missing a number of starters out with injuries, beat Pagosa Springs 21-14 last weekend after earlier wins over Ignacio (56-0) and valley rival Roaring Fork (28-7).

Dan Schwartz scored all three touchdowns last week for the Skiers, who played without starting quarterback Luke Rider and starting tailback Casey Hornburg. Their status for tonight’s game at Bayfield is uncertain, according to published reports.

Ryan Fitzgerald rushed for 61 yards to lead the Skiers, who scored twice on fourth down against Pagosa Springs (0-3).

Bayfield, conversely, scored on nearly every down in shutting out Basalt 42-0 one week ago. TJ Pazell, unofficially, rushed for 81 yards. Quarterback Matt Knickerbocker rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another.

The Wolverines, under new head coach Gary Heide and new defensive coordinator Shawn Tucker, limited Basalt to 99 net yards in the shutout.

Bayfield’s victory was the 11th consecutive conference victory for the BHS football team. The first 10 came in the Intermountain League, which was disbanded for football this season.

The Skiers are coached by Sirko, the longtime head coach at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs before taking over the Aspen program five years ago. The Skiers have been in the playoffs ever since.

Bayfield also is on a streak of four consecutive state playoff appearances, including last year’s 13-1 record and an appearance in the state title game.

But the Western League firsts don’t stop there:

Next week, the Wolverines will play at Parachute against Grand Valley High School for the first time ever in football. Parachute is located between Grand Junction and Rifle on Interstate 70.

Bayfield will host Coal Ridge (New Castle/Silt) on Oct. 5 – for the first time.

Bayfield will host Gunnison on Oct. 12 – for the first time.

dstrode@durangoherald.com