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Miracle in Basalt: Overtime play sends Longhorns to quarterfinal upset of Rifle

They had tried the play earlier in the game, but to no avail. Without many options facing fourth-and-33 and with the season hanging in the balance, it seemed as good a spot as any to give it another go.

Basalt High School senior receiver Jackson Rapaport took the reverse from junior quarterback Matty Gillis before heaving it toward the end zone and into the arms of junior receiver Rulbe Alvarado in a play that was nothing short of a miracle for the Longhorns.

“To be honest with you, sometimes you get lucky and that was one of those plays,” Basalt football coach Carl Frerichs said. “Rulbe is a heck of a player. … He’s a special kid. Everyone wants to get him more involved because he’s so fast and so athletic. I’m so happy for him.”

Paired with his crucial kickoff return for a touchdown, Alvarado stole the show on Saturday when No. 9 seed Basalt pulled out a stunner over No. 1 Rifle, winning 21-14 in double overtime on the BHS field. The Class 2A state quarterfinal win sends the Longhorns (9-2) to the 2A semifinals for the first time in program history and ends Rifle’s season with a lone loss.

The Bears (10-1) had beaten Basalt as recently as Oct. 25, winning 21-9 that day on the BHS field after trailing early in the fourth quarter. Saturday’s playoff rematch had a lot of similarities with the regular-season matchup.

“I don’t know if I had any expectations, except I knew our kids would play with their heart and do anything we asked them to do and that’s exactly what they did,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said. “That’s one of the negative byproducts of making the playoffs, is you know for 15 out of the 16 teams it’s going to end in heartbreak. One thing we talked about is it certainly doesn’t feel any better the later you lose in the playoffs, but it sure is a tough one today.”

Rifle led Saturday’s game 14-6 early in the third quarter after standout running back Levi Warfel broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1. With momentum back in favor of the visiting team, Alvarado responded by taking the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. He even caught the 2-point conversion that tied the game at 14-14 with more than nine minutes still to play in the third quarter.

“I’ve been wanting one all season. I just got to give credit to the blockers for helping me get it to the end zone,” Alvarado said of his kickoff return. “We just knew it was going to be a fight the whole way through. I felt like we were kind of losing hope, but I’m just glad we stuck with each other and went all the way.”

Rifle also led 7-0 after a 1-yard run by Warfel capped off the team’s first possession. A defensive stop on fourth-and-short to open the second quarter swung momentum in favor of Basalt, and it was a rare Rifle fumble that set up the Longhorns deep in enemy territory.

A few plays later, Gillis dropped a dime into Rapaport from 22 yards out for a touchdown. A botched extra-point try kept Rifle up 7-6 heading into the locker room, which was the exact same halftime score when the teams played Oct. 25 in Basalt.

“Rifle, they were saying, ‘Make them regret Round 2.’ And we weren’t going to let that happen. We weren’t going to let the rebuilding year chip keep getting bigger on our shoulder,” Gillis said. “After we played last week, all of us were all in every single day, every single play.”

The game went to overtime tied 14-14, Alvarado’s kickoff return for a touchdown early in the third quarter proving to be the final points of regulation. Rifle had the first possession in overtime, but the BHS defense made a stop on fourth down to give its offense a shot at the win. Needing only a field goal to end it, Gillis had a third-down pass intercepted by Rifle’s Carter Pressler in the end zone that forced a second overtime.

The end of that play resulted in a personal foul on Basalt for a late hit, meaning BHS had to start the second overtime period at the 25-yard-line instead of the 10. That’s when, on fourth down with a third of the football field in front of them, Rapaport launched his prayer to Alvarado that gave BHS the 21-14 lead.

The Bears still had a chance to tie, but they also had to start from the 25 after getting called for roughing the kicker on Basalt’s extra-point try, which was good. Facing fourth-and-25, Rifle’s prayer went unanswered, Rapaport jumping up to snag the pass near the goal line to end the game.

“Last time we thought we didn’t fulfill what we should have done. I’m glad we had another opportunity to show everyone we could do it,” Alvarado said of finally beating Rifle. “We knew that if Jackson got a good pass I just had to run and catch it. And we believed in each other and I think that helped us get the win.”

Unlike Rifle, which has won three state championships, including the 3A title back in 2004, Basalt has never been this far in the playoffs, at least in 2A. The Longhorns lost in the quarters each of the past two seasons, the only times they’ve ever been among the final eight teams before this fall.

“Honestly, I’m speechless,” Rapaport said. “After the game I was in tears. I wasn’t even sure if I have really accepted it’s happened. It’s unbelievable, really.”

And, believe it or not, despite being only the No. 9 seed in the 16-team playoff bracket, the Longhorns will host their 2A semifinal game against No. 4 seed Delta, yet another Western Slope League foe. The Panthers beat No. 5 Faith Christian on Saturday, winning 37-35, to advance. With Basalt and Delta both having been the home team in the quarterfinals, the semifinal host was decided by a simple coin flip won by the Longhorns.

That semifinal game is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Basalt. The Longhorns’ only other defeat this season came Oct. 18 at Delta, a 35-6 loss. Delta’s only loss this season came Oct. 11 at Rifle, 47-29.

“That was probably the one game all season where I just wasn’t pleased with the way we coached or played, so I think we can regroup and do some things better,” Frerichs said of the first game with Delta. “But they are a heck of a team. There is a reason why they are in the semifinals. We’re going to have to get to the drawing board and make sure we are ready to go on Saturday.”

The other semifinal game will be between No. 2 Sterling and No. 3 Resurrection Christian. The 2A state championship game is scheduled for Nov. 30 in Pueblo.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Kent Denver dashes Roaring Fork soccer’s title hopes in 3A championship game

COMMERCE CITY — For 50 minutes of play in the 3A state high school soccer final Saturday, it seemed quite possible Carbondale’s Roaring Fork Rams just might pull off the seemingly impossible.

But a four-goal scoring barrage by Kent Denver over a 15-minute span in the second half saw it all come crashing down.

In the end, the second-seeded Sun Devils were state champs for a second straight year by virtue of a 5-0 shutout over No. 5 Roaring Fork, and the Rams were relegated to runner-up.

“We were right there with them that whole first half, pretty much neck and neck, and it really felt like we had a good chance,” Rams senior Lucas Schramer said as he left the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

“Then, we just let a couple slide, and it all seemed to come right at once,” he said.

All at once is right, as Kent Denver senior forward Pace Billings broke it open with just over 30 minutes showing on the second-half clock to give the Sun Devils the 1-0 advantage.

After Rams junior goalkeeper Noah Wheeless made several impressive saves, Kent Denver pushed the ball into heavy traffic in front of the net, when a ricochet gave Billings a wide-open shot just inside the left post.

Not 15 minutes later, it was all but over, as Billings had scored two more goals, the second off a Sun Devils’ corner kick, for a hat trick on the day.

“That first half, to shut them out, I was so confident in our team,” Wheeless said. “My defense was on lock, but the offense was struggling a little bit with just two shots on goal. Their defense is just really tough.”

After the Rams dialed up some offensive pressure in the first three minutes of the second half, the momentum turned Kent’s way.

“They just found the gaps in my defense and started playing to their wings and coming in close to the two-hole,” Wheeless said. “They were just right in my box, and there was nothing I could do.”

Nonetheless, “I love my team, and I’m proud of how we played,” he said.

Kent senior Max Hewitt added another goal just over a minute after Billings’ third, and then senior Layton Purchase added the fifth goal with seven minutes left to play.

The Rams had several scoring opportunities in the first half, including a header shot from senior Dylan Webster off a free kick in the 31st minute that sailed just high over the crossbar. Two minutes into the second half, Webster had an open shot that went just wide left.

Roaring Fork coach Nick Forbes said it’s one more big step for a program that’s made the final four of the 3A playoffs the last two seasons.

“We’re going to keep building, and we’ll see you again next year in the same game,” he vowed, while crediting the Kent Denver program.

“From back to front, they’re just a really strong program,” Forbes said. “It’s hard coming from a public school and matching those resources and a program that’s so established.”

Kent coach Arty Smith also commended the Roaring Fork program.

“Coach Forbes did a great job; they were well-organized and obviously we couldn’t break them down in that first half,” Smith said. “They just always had an answer for anything we threw at them.”

Patience paid off for the Sun Devils, though, who forced the Rams to open it up after the first goal and were able to create the follow-up scoring chances.

“But boy, Roaring Fork, that is a very good soccer team, and they’ve got a lot to be proud of,” Smith said. “They showed a lot of heart and a lot of spirit, and I’m sure they’re going to be back.”

The championship game marked the final game in a Rams uniform for seniors Schramer, Webster, Connor Brennan, Johnny Delgado, Frankie Harrington, Aidan Foote and Sawyer Shook.

jstroud@postindependent.com

After losing late to Rifle the first time, Basalt hopes to learn from mistakes

From players to coaches, members of the Basalt High School football team have repeatedly said they believe they should have beaten Rifle last month. The teams played in an Oct. 25 regular-season game, Rifle escaping with a 21-9 win after trailing early in the fourth quarter on the BHS field.

“We are kind of glad to have a chance for redemption because I felt like we should have won the game. Hopefully this time it will be a different turnout,” BHS junior receiver Rulbe Alvarado said. “We just got a little lost. I don’t know if we got confident. I don’t know, but hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

The teams are set for a rematch on Saturday, and this time there is a lot more on the line. No. 9 seed Basalt (8-2) will host No. 1 Rifle (10-0) in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs, with the winner advancing to play either No. 4 Delta or No. 5 Faith Christian in the semifinals. Kickoff for all four of Saturday’s 2A quarterfinal games is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“We’ve been telling the kids all week, we feel great athlete to athlete,” BHS coach Carl Frerichs said. “They are a really well coached team. It’s really fun to see what they do and we got to make sure we got our kids in the best possible situation to combat some of that X’s and O’s stuff.”

When you talk about football on the Western Slope, not many teams come with the pedigree that Rifle does. They were a longtime power in Class 3A, winning the state championship in 2004 under former coach Darrel Gorham. Damon Wells, the team’s current head coach, was the defensive coordinator that season.

The Bears moved down to 2A last season. They’ve won the 2A Western Slope League each of the past two seasons, their only league loss coming at home against Aspen in a stunner a year ago. Rifle has beaten Basalt four times in four seasons, going back to non-league wins in 2016 and 2017 when the Bears were still in 3A. Prior to 2016, the teams hadn’t played each other in recent memory.

So, maybe meeting up in the playoffs is a way to make up for lost time.

“It really is an advantage to both teams when you’ve played each other because I think we have a better feel for what they do than most teams. But they probably feel the exact same thing about what we do as well,” Frerichs said. “I do feel we have a pretty good idea of what they want to do. But Damon does such a great job of always being one step ahead of your defense.”

Rifle averages 41 points per game, having outscored opponents 410-98 this season. Outside of the 21 points Basalt held them to, the Bears scored at least 31 points in every game, and in that game (a 31-3 win over Eagle Valley) all the points were scored in the first half.

Hardly an offensive juggernaut, the Basalt defense has certainly carried most of the load this season. Outside of the 35 points allowed to Delta in a game that got away from the Longhorns early, Basalt has been able to hold most opponents at bay, including in last week’s 13-7 first-round playoff win over No. 8 The Classical Academy. That same defense allowed them to hang with Rifle back in October, only a week after that 35-6 loss to Delta.

Having a chance in Saturday’s playoff game will be about fixing the offensive mistakes from that first matchup.

“We just didn’t capitalize,” BHS senior receiver Jackson Rapaport said. “They stopped us on the 5-yard-line twice. Props to their defense, but when we are that close, we should be able to score. In this game, we are not going to miss chances like that.”

In that Oct. 25 game in Basalt, the Longhorns came out swinging. Sophomore running back Cole Dombrowski ran in a touchdown on the first drive to give BHS a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point. The Bears answered right back, a 1-yard sneak by Rifle quarterback Holden Stutsman making it 7-6 in favor of the visitors late in the first quarter.

That’s when the defenses manned up, the 7-6 score holding all the way into the fourth quarter. A field goal by Basalt’s Carlos Palomares gave BHS the lead at 9-7 with just inside 12 minutes to play in the game.

However, Rifle owned Basalt from there, with star tailback Levi Warfel leading the charge that effectively ran out the clock on the home team. Stopping Warfel is the key to stopping the Rifle offense — the senior rushed 20 times for 172 yards in that game, and has exactly 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing this season, per MaxPreps.

“We just kind of lost a little bit of our footing in the fourth quarter. I just think if we keep going without slowing down we will take them this time,” Alvarado said. “They are just very disciplined and they go 100% until the echo of the whistle, which is a huge part of their program.”

Despite a lethargic finish on Oct. 25, Basalt felt it proved to everyone it could hang with Rifle. Saturday’s playoff rematch will be about trying to finish what it started.

“Our defense stepped up huge,” Rapaport said of the first game. “I really just think whoever comes out and wants it more is going to take this game.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

A game years in the making: Roaring Fork soccer to play for state championship

The state championship-bound Roaring Fork High School boys soccer team has something to prove this season.

After graduating most of a senior-heavy team last year — and after bowing out of the state playoffs in the semifinals that year and the quarterfinals the year before that — the 2019 contingent of Rams are out to make a name for themselves.

“I feel like a lot of the guys this year kind of came out of their shell,” senior Connor Brennan said Thursday as the team went through final drills in preparation for a 3A title game matchup with defending state champion Kent Denver on Saturday morning.

Game time is 11 a.m. for the No. 5 Rams versus the No. 2 Sun Devils at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

INTO THEIR OWN

“We only had three non-senior starters last year, and so we really had to step it up this year and show that we were just as good as the seniors who left,” Brennan said. “It feels really good to finally get there; like all the effort and work we put in over the past few years is finally coming together.”

It’s also been a building process for seventh-year coach Nick Forbes who, after four straight years sending a Roaring Fork team into the playoffs, has the Rams playing for a state title.

“This team has showed some pretty incredible perseverance,” Forbes said of a varsity squad that has almost as many underclassmen starting as juniors and seniors.

The Rams’ 2-1 win over No. 1 Salida in the semifinals on Wednesday was a great example.

Scoreless through more than 75 minutes of play, Roaring Fork suddenly found itself down 1-0 with time ticking away.

But the Rams, thanks to the foot of sophomore Ross Barlow, tied it with just over a minute left in regulation.

Then, Barlow’s penalty kick in overtime was golden, giving the win to Roaring Fork and a shot at the state title.

“To carry through that way shows the perseverance,” Forbes said.

YOUNG TALENT

Barlow and senior Dylan Webster have been the team leaders all season on the scoring front, with 18 and 14 goals, respectively.

But a good bit of the Rams’ scoring also came from freshman Emiliano Magana, who netted eight goals.

“It’s great to play with this group, and it makes me a better player and helps me improve my skills,” Magana said. “The coaches here are really good, and my teammates keep me motivated to get better.”

Forbes hands it to the All-Valley Select Soccer Club for developing young players and helping to feed the area high school teams.

“They keep pumping out talent, and we keep profiting from that,” Forbes said. “It’s pretty awesome as a coach when you have well-developed players, because the coaching becomes less instructional and more about how to use these players to best get results.”

Solidifying the Roaring Fork team effort has been a staunch backline and middle field that controls the tempo and limits its opponents’ scoring chances. The Rams have an impressive goals-against average this season of just 1.1, and junior goalkeeper Noah Wheeless has recorded 65 saves on the season.

Senior Johnny Delgado transferred to Roaring Fork last year, but had to wait it out on the junior varsity squad during the Rams’ 2018 semifinal run due to the Colorado High School Activities Association transfer eligibility rules.

“This has been my dream, and it’s been everyone’s dream since eighth grade that when you get to high school you can play for a state championship,” Delgado said.

“It’s been a huge team effort … and I’m proud of all the effort.”

TALL ORDER

The Rams know they’ll have to be on top of their game to dethrone perennial soccer powerhouse Kent Denver.

“No doubt, they’re one of the best in the state, and we need to be really focused,” Brennan said.

Forbes remembers that two of the Sun Devils’ top players were sophomore sensations two years ago when Roaring Fork lost 3-1 to Kent Denver in the 3A quarterfinals.

“They’re good players, and they have the resources behind them,” Forbes said. “So, that perseverance is going to be huge. If we can hang in there and show them what we can do, that’s going to be key.”

A strong contingent of Carbondale fans also plan to make the trip over to Denver for the big game. That support has also been part of the team’s success, Forbes said.

“It’s a real testament to our community,” he said. “There are a lot of bonds that connect us demographically, with our Latino and Anglo cultures. This town does a really nice job of bringing those cultures together and bridging those gaps. And that shows in our team.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Basalt, Rifle football set for rematch in second round of Class 2A playoffs

Calling it a rivalry game might not be accurate, at least today. After the weekend, it might be worth talking about.

The Basalt High School football team is set to host Rifle at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs. The recent history between the teams only goes back a few seasons now, a series dominated by the Bears. But if the Longhorns get what they want Saturday, a real rivalry could result from the upset.

“It’s sort of like a rivalry,” Basalt receiver Rulbe Alvarado said. “It’s not like Aspen, but you always want to beat them no matter what just because they are a great team and they always bring it. So beating them would be really great.”

Rifle (10-0) is the top overall seed in this year’s bracket. The Bears rolled over No. 16 seed Englewood in the first round last week, winning 48-15. Basalt (8-2) is the tournament’s No. 9 seed, having gone on the road to knock off No. 8 The Classical Academy in the first round, escaping 13-7.

You can view the complete bracket here.

Basalt is the host team on Saturday due to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s rule that attempts to prevent teams from traveling back-to-back weeks in the playoffs. The Longhorns are certainly glad to be playing at home this weekend, although Rifle’s relative proximity will likely result in a large road crowd and a nearly neutral-site feeling.

The teams played as recently as Oct. 25 in Basalt, Rifle winning 21-9 after trailing early in the fourth quarter.

“There is going to be a huge crowd out here. I think the environment out here is going to be insane. Playoffs are just different,” BHS senior receiver Jackson Rapaport said. “We’ve never actually made it to the third round in football playoffs, so if we win this we are all trying to make history.”

Basalt is no stranger to the playoffs in recent years, although this is believed to only be the third time its ever played in the second round of the 2A state playoffs. The other two times came in each of the past two seasons, which ended with second-round losses to Bayfield (41-0 in 2017) and Platte Valley (46-9 in 2018).

Getting into the state semifinals would be uncharted territory for the Longhorns.

On the flip side, Rifle has long terrorized this side of the state with its dominance, most of it coming under longtime head coach Damon Wells and mostly in Class 3A. This includes a pair of state championships, the most recent coming in 2004.

“We are grateful we get another stab at them, because we feel like we missed our chances last time and we are here to come take it,” Rapaport said. “I don’t think we’ve ever beaten them. I think because of that they may be in our heads a little bit. But after that last game, we showed ourselves that we can beat them. I can’t speak for everybody else, but I know I’m ready.”

Rifle moved from 3A into the 2A Western Slope League last season, winning the first of now back-to-back WSL titles. Having been in different classifications all those years prior, the teams essentially never played each other, at least this century according to the MaxPreps records. The teams finally came together for a two-game, non-league series in both 2016 and 2017, when Rifle was still 3A. The Bears won 48-34 and 34-14 before a 35-14 win in 2018 when they became league foes.

Having beaten Basalt four times in four years, Rifle will certainly be favored on Saturday. But the Longhorns feel they have closed the gap and want to prove to the state they belong and step into the semifinals for the first time.

“No matter who you play, there are only eight teams remaining,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “It’s a super special time for these kids and the kids probably don’t realize it now, but these are going to be memories these kids are going to remember forever.”

The winner of Saturday’s game will face either No. 4 Delta or No. 5 Faith Christian in the semifinals.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Roaring Fork soccer wins in extra time to advance to first state championship game

DENVER — As time dwindled in the second half, the Roaring Fork High School boys soccer team had a strong sense of deja vu.

The fifth-seeded Rams were scoreless with No. 1 Salida in the Class 3A state semifinals Wednesday night, and it looked like they were heading to overtime.

In the same round of the state championships last year, Roaring Fork battled to a shootout but fell 2-1, ending its season.

But the narrative changed dramatically this time around at All City Stadium.

The Rams came from behind late in the second half to tie the game. And in overtime, they were finally victorious.

Roaring Fork (15-2-1 overall) scored with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the extra period to upset the top seed and secure its first bid to the championship game in program history.

“To tell you the truth, I was kind of consigning to another semifinal exit,” coach Nick Forbes said. “And then Ross (Barlow) pulls out a special moment.”

With 7:14 remaining in regulation, Salida (17-1-1) deflated the Rams’ hopes as junior Kai Brown scored on a wide open shot to take a 1-0 lead.

RFHS junior goalkeeper Noah Wheeless had come out of the goal to help defend, but Brown slipped by him and sailed the ball into the net.

“Once they scored I felt the whole team just come down,” said Wheeless, who had five saves on the night. “I felt terrible. I was like, ‘That was my fault’ and everyone (said), ‘No, we’re a team. We’re gonna win and we’re gonna lose together.

“And then that magic just happened.”

The Rams began to push hard on offense and had a couple of opportunities, but they couldn’t capitalize. Then Barlow, a sophomore, was left open in the back post and he slipped the ball past the goalie into the right corner with 1:20 left to tie the game at 1.

As the overtime period began, both sides played with urgency to start, but Barlow said he and his teammates began to slow down and play smarter.

Roaring Fork started controlling the ball and opened up a couple shots on goal. After a shot by sophomore Jose Mercado Jr. missed, the Rams got a corner kick. While battling for the ball, a Salida player committed a penalty right outside the net.

Barlow got set up for the penalty kick in the box and with 3:32 left on the clock, he knocked the ball into the left corner for the win.

“I just took a couple deep breaths before that PK and put it in,” Barlow said.

Now, despite playing in their first championship game, the Rams are feeling confident, especially since they have only allowed one goal in the postseason and took 14 shots on goal against Salida.

Roaring Fork will take on defending 3A state champion Kent Denver — 6-1 winners over Atlas Preparatory School in the night cap Wednesday — at 11 a.m. Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

“I think our defensive collectiveness is really strong, and you can see it when we play,” Forbes said. “They kind of had a little dip right at the end of the season, (but) right now they’re finding their best form and that’s all you can ask for as a coach is (to) find it when it matters.”

sports@postindependent.com

Basalt’s Vozick named second team all-state in softball; Titans’ Wiescamp WSL volleyball player of year

Basalt High’s Zoe Vozick named second team all-state in softball

Basalt High School senior softball player Zoe Vozick was named a second team all-state selection in Class 3A when the teams were announced Tuesday by CHSAANow.com. Vozick, who played both catcher and short stop, was one of nine named to the second team.

She was one of the best bats in the state, hitting .667 with 59 RBI and 57 runs with six home runs. She was a key reason the Longhorns went 23-2 overall and made it as far as the 3A state quarterfinals.

Basalt junior Graci Dietrich and freshman Kiera Larson were each named honorable mention all-state selections. Eaton’s Remington Ross was named the 3A player of the year and University’s Rocky Byrd the 3A coach of the year. University beat Brush in the state championship game.

Coal Ridge volleyball star named WSL player of year

Area Class 3A prep volleyball players were well-represented in the Western Slope League all-conference selections, including the league’s player of the year.

Coal Ridge junior Taylor Wiescamp earned the top player honors in voting by league coaches, and was named to the 3A All-WSL first team along with two of her teammates. Joining her were fellow juniors Brecken Guccini and Phoebe Young.

Coach of the Year honors went to Heather Dunbar, head coach of the Cedaredge Bruins volleyball team.

Wiescamp was a big part of the Titans’ success this season, compiling 246 kills with a kill percentage of 56%, plus 168 service points and an ace percentage of 13.7%. On the defensive side, she led the team with 116 total blocks on the fall.

Coal Ridge won the WSL regular season title this fall, as the Titans went 8-1 through league play and 17-8 overall. Under the direction of head coach Aimee Gerber, the Titans earned a trip to the 3A regionals last weekend.

Basalt High School’s Samanta Andrade and Karina Bauer were each named first team all-league selections. Earning second team honors were Basalt’s Lecsi Glenn and Lexi Lowe, as well as Aspen’s Kat Goralka.

—John Stroud, Glenwood Springs Post Independent

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Reaching new heights: Basalt, Aspen high climbing clubs get seasons underway

Wyatt Balderson isn’t into the traditional sports, which is part of the reason he latched onto climbing. The Basalt High School senior was one of the first to help head coach Tanner Jones establish a club team at BHS a year ago, and even he’s amazed by how far things have come in that time.

“It’s really different from last year where we really only had like maybe seven kids. It’s really interesting to see it grow and progress,” Balderson said. “I’ve definitely progressed my climbing way more. When I first started I was super weak and was just trying it because I thought it would be fun. I didn’t know it would grow into something I really love doing, but it has and it’s one of my favorite things.”

In only its second season, the BHS climbing team has gone from about seven or so kids to roughly 20. A big reason for this is the addition of its own climbing wall, built in January inside the school’s auxiliary gymnasium. A winter sport, the Longhorns got their season underway Saturday in Grand Junction. The climbing season runs through the state meet in February.

“It’s probably the most supportive, laid-back competition environment I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “It’s super inclusive. Kids from all abilities can climb. There is no bench, there are no starters, there are no tryouts. It’s you against the rock. It’s you climbing with other people of your same ability level and just trying to do the best you can and it’s a lot of fun.”

Basalt competes through the Colorado-based American Scholastic Climbing League, which was established in May 2018 and replaced the 10-year-old Colorado High School Climbing League. The nonprofit organization operates separately of the Colorado High School Activities Association.

The league is divided into four regions across Colorado, with Basalt being one of 19 teams officially listed as part of the Western Slope region. That group includes Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, coached by Dave Meyer, one of the regional directors, Roaring Fork and Aspen. Aspen’s club team is a couple years older than Basalt’s and has also seen considerable growth.

“It’s fully grown over the past four years or so into a pretty big program here at the school,” Aspen coach Kim Hammond said. “Everybody is really cohesive and kids are really kind and supportive of each other. I think that has a lot to do with the nature of the sport. It’s very self-driven and we as coaches really try to make it so everyone feels they have a place.”

Both Aspen and Basalt competed Saturday at Grand Valley Climbing in Grand Junction. The AHS boys finished second behind CRMS, while the Basalt boys were seventh. Aspen’s Henry Palmaz was ninth among individuals. In the girls’ competition, CRMS won, Aspen was sixth and Basalt didn’t record a team score, although did have a couple of girls compete.

Unlike the upper end of USA Climbing events, which are largely built around racing the clock up a wall, ASCL events are much more laid back. Climbers are given three hours to figure out as many of the 20 boulder problems as they can, which vary in difficulty.

“Your plan is to climb the hardest routes that you are capable of,” Jones said. “It’s a newly-formed league and they are ironing out the kinks. Each year it gets better and better and more and more organized.”

Basalt’s own climbing wall has been a big boost to the club. Jones arrived in 2017 and took over the wall’s fundraising, which had been approved by the school prior to his appointment. To date the club has invested about $85,000 into the project, with about $70,000 of that going into the construction of the wall itself. The other $15,000 went to gear, such as shoes and ropes, with the money being raised almost exclusively through community fundraising or donations.

Aspen, which currently trains out of the Red Brick Recreation Center, hopes to follow in Basalt’s footholds with its own climbing wall one day.

“We are growing so quickly that we are really overwhelming the (Red Brick) climbing wall. There are a few of us here that would really love to see the high school get a climbing wall,” Hammond said. “We are in the very beginning stages of hopefully someday getting our own climbing wall that can support the large amount of kids that we’ve gotten over the last few years.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Basalt football holds off TCA, will face WSL foe Rifle in second round

COLORADO SPRINGS — Basalt High School coach Carl Frerichs preached all season the importance of winning the turnover battle — especially during playoff football.

Saturday, a turnover proved to be the spark the No. 9-seeded Longhorns needed for the eventual game-winning touchdown in a 13-7 win over No. 8 The Classical Academy to punch their ticket to the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.

Basalt will face No. 1 Rifle in the quarterfinals next week. The Longhorns faced Rifle just two weeks ago in a 21-9 2A Western Slope League loss.

On the first play from scrimmage Titan quarterback Sam Guilez fumbled on the handoff, recovered by the Longhorns on the Titan 23. Basalt moved the chains once before junior quarterback Matty Gillis sent a touchdown pass to senior Jackson Rapaport.

Aided by two TCA 15-yard penalties, Gillis led the Longhorns’ first charge down the field, ending with a 10-yard pass to Rapaport.

The Titans responded with a first-drive touchdown of their own thanks to a 2-yard rush by sophomore Cade Palmer. But it proved to be the last time TCA would find the end zone the rest of the way.

For more from this game, visit gazette.com.

Roaring Fork punches ticket to 3A soccer semis with 1-0 win over Aurora West Prep

Roaring Fork High School’s boys soccer team made the necessary game adjustments playing on a full-size turf field Saturday in Aurora, earning the 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Aurora West Prep Academy to advance to the Class 3A state semifinals.

It’s the second straight trip to the final four for the Rams, who look to overcome an overtime loss on penalty kicks to Liberty Common last season.

Playing at the Hinkley High School stadium on a warm fall day with the temperature in the mid-70s Saturday, the fifth-seeded Rams kept Aurora West Prep on the defensive most of the game.

“They only had maybe two or three shots on goal, and our back line had a really strong game,” Roaring Fork coach Nick Forbes said, adding he gave “Man of the Game” honors to senior defensive player Frankie Harrington.

With two Spartan players coming into the game having scored 44 and 20 goals on the season, “we just kind of staved the service to them, and the rest was a collective team effort.”

After a scoreless first half, senior Dylan Webster scored the only goal of the game in the 66th minute from just outside the 18 off a feed from fellow senior Lucas Schramer.

“We did a nice job playing shorter balls to the feet,” Forbes said of the modified game style after having played the first two games of the playoffs at home on the shorter, narrower grass field at Carbondale Middle School.

“We came out a little nervous in the first 20 minutes, just trying to get a sense of how strong they were,” Forbes said of the host Spartans. “Once we got a sense of that, we were the ones creating the most scoring opportunities.”

Rams senior Johnny Delgado said the win was a real team effort, and if they can continue that into the semifinals Roaring Fork could find itself playing for a state championship.

“We’ve worked really hard all season, and we deserve this,” Delgado said. “We played pretty well today, and I think we can do it again.”

The Rams will play No. 1 seed Salida — winner on penalty kicks over Faith Christian Saturday — on Wednesday at All City Stadium in Denver for the right to play for the 3A championship. Roaring Fork beat Salida in the quarterfinals last season in Carbondale.

Also advancing to the 3A semifinals Saturday were Atlas Prep School, 7-0 winners over Delta, and Kent Denver, 6-1 winners over Colorado Academy.

jstroud@postindependent.com