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Led by its defense, Aspen football sinks Sailors in win, remains in playoff hunt

Steamboat Springs quarterback Cade Gedeon is dragged down by an Aspen defender on Saturday, April 10, 2021, on the AHS turf. The Skiers won, 22-7. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Once the Aspen High School defense woke up — random 4 p.m. kickoffs need some getting used to — the Skiers were able to dictate Saturday’s football game en route to a 22-7 victory over visiting Steamboat Springs on the AHS turf.

Last week against Montezuma-Cortez, it was the AHS defense that stood out late in a 40-28 win. And, after giving up an early score, it was this same group that took center stage against the Sailors and dominated the final three quarters.

“It really comes down to we started playing aggressive, and that’s the secret,” said AHS coach Travis Benson, who thought his team started “very lethargic” against Steamboat. “The defense is absolutely gaining steam. I’m proud of the effort and the hustle. Tackling can still be improved. We are still too high, but effort is absolutely there.”

The contest featured a pair of two-loss teams needing a win to realistically stay in the postseason chase with only two regular-season games remaining after this weekend. Early on it looked like Steamboat was going to be the team to gain the upper hand, with the Sailors leading 7-0 late in the first quarter following a 2-yard touchdown run by Steamboat standout Finn Russell.

That was about the last sound heard from the SSHS offense, which committed multiple turnovers and barely threatened after the first quarter. Before that quarter ended, AHS scored via a roughly 20-yard pass and catch from sophomore quarterback Nate Thomas to senior receiver Noah Akin. A failed two-point conversion kept it at 7-6 Steamboat after a quarter.

Aspen led 14-7 at halftime after Thomas found junior Brady Haisfield for a touchdown, and Thomas ran in the two-point conversion.

Despite all the opportunities awarded them by the defense, the Skiers’ offense couldn’t maintain enough momentum to continually capitalize and failed to pull away from the Sailors.

“A good one that we can still clean up a lot,” Benson said of Saturday’s game. “There was definitely some good. I obviously haven’t watched film yet, but kind of the theme is 10 guys on one page, and one guy on a different page. And when that one guy is on a different page, it causes some self-destruction. It’s getting that consistency and that discipline for everybody to be on the same page.”

Aspen High School sophomore quarterback Nate Thomas runs with the ball against Steamboat Springs on Saturday, April 10, 2021, on the AHS turf. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

The only other score came relatively early in the third quarter when Thomas connected with Akin from 19 yards out. The two also connected on the two-point conversion for the 22-7 lead. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter.

Steamboat dropped to 1-3 overall and is likely out of the playoff mix in this six-game regular season, especially considering it entered with one of the lowest RPI rankings in the 16-team Class 3A this spring. The Sailors still have Coal Ridge and Rifle remaining this season.

Aspen improved to 2-2 overall. After losses to Glenwood Springs (41-14) and Rifle (56-14) to open the spring, AHS has now won back-to-back games to climb into the postseason picture. The Skiers entered the week with the No. 7 RPI in 3A, based largely on having played one of the toughest schedules in the classification so far.

“Especially defensively. Special teams did some good things. And offensively we did do some good things,” Benson said of having taken another step forward this weekend. “It’s just trying to put it together and play four quarters of football. And I think the other side of it is the kids learning there are some times when you have to hit the accelerator.”

Should Aspen’s RPI (rating percentage index) — which is the main component that determines postseason seeding — remain in the top half of the league, a 3-3 record this spring might be enough to get into the playoffs.

That would mean going 1-1 over the final two weeks. With a tough but winnable game against Coal Ridge waiting in the April 23 finale, the Skiers first have to contend with rival Basalt this coming Friday night in Aspen.

The Longhorns (3-1) will likely fall from the No. 1 spot in 3A after a 21-14 loss to No. 3 Glenwood Springs (4-0) on Friday night.

“Basalt is a very good football team. They are well coached. They are aggressive,” Benson said, adding that “you never know” in rivalry games.


Glenwood football rallies back, scores late to knock off top-ranked Longhorns, 21-14

Glenwood Springs High School’s Blake Nieslanik runs the ball during the game at Basalt High School on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Sometimes, to grind out a win, a team has to be a bit stubborn and stick to its principles. That was the approach for coach Pat Engle and the Glenwood Springs High School football team, which rallied late to upset top-ranked Basalt on Friday night, winning 21-14 on the BHS field.

“We knew we just had to keep pounding it and keep pounding it and keep pounding it,” Engle said. “Eventually it worked for us. We just had faith in each other. Just hearing the kids on the sidelines, our senior leaders … this is about the kids. The kids did this.”

Playing for the first time in nearly a decade, it was a matchup of two of the top three ranked teams in the spring’s new one-off Class 3A season, with the West league title essentially on the line, if not the overall seed in the fast-approaching state playoffs.

It was also senior night and homecoming for the Longhorns, who hosted one of the better crowds the Roaring Fork Valley has seen at any sort of event since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. And, for most of that contest, the Longhorns seemed to have the edge, until the No. 3-ranked Demons found a way to wear them down at the end.

Basalt seniors and best friends Riley Dolan, left, and Alonso Silva take a selfie after the student section threw purple-dyed cornstarch into the air during halftime of the homecoming football game against Glenwood Springs at Basalt High School on Friday, April 9, 2021. Both Dolan and Silva were on Homecoming Court. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“They made some big plays and we missed out on some of those big plays. But I think it was a lot of fun for the kids. The atmosphere was awesome,” BHS coach Carl Frerichs said. “I felt offensively and defensively we were on our heels a lot of the game. So even though we were ahead on the scoreboard, I didn’t feel great about the way we were playing, to be honest.”

Pretty, the game was not. The halftime score was only 7-0 in favor of Basalt, the lone touchdown being a roughly 60-yard interception return by senior Teegan Card on a tipped pass in the latter stages of the first quarter. The BHS defense wasn’t great, but it was opportunistic most of the game, getting a fourth-and-goal stop from its own 1-yard line and getting another interception in its own end zone to keep the Demons off the scoreboard in the first half.

“Defensively we made a lot of great plays and I was really proud of the kids,” Frerichs said. “But we were on the field way too much. Offensively, we just couldn’t get a rhythm going like we’ve had all season. It will be great to watch film and see our strong points and things we definitely need to look at and get better at.”

It didn’t take long for Glenwood to get the offense going after halftime. Junior standout Blake Nieslanik finally broke loose for a nearly 50-yard touchdown run to make it a 7-7 ball game not even midway through the third quarter.

Basalt High School senior and captain Jose Castorena hypes up the team before the game against Glenwood Springs in their home stadium on Friday, April 9, 2021. This game was both senior night and the homecoming game. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Either team likely could have pulled away on Friday, but costly mistakes plagued both squads. A key play came not long after Glenwood’s tying touchdown when a muffed punt gave BHS great field position, and a few plays later quarterback Matty Gillis scored on a 1-yard keeper to give the Longhorns the lead back at 14-7 late in the third.

But Glenwood controlled the fourth quarter. A touchdown pass by freshman quarterback Joaquin Sandoval tied the game at 14-all with just over five minutes to play, and BHS couldn’t take advantage of its following possession.

A heavy dose of Glenwood senior Garrett Dollahan on the final drive led to a 1-yard TD run by Dollahan with only 11 seconds remaining that effectively ended the game.

Basalt High School’s wide receiver and captain Rulbe Alvarado avoids a tackle by Glenwood Springs’ Stephen Morris while running the ball during the first half of the homecoming game on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“When you get two pretty proud programs with some tradition, some familiarity, you end up with what you got right there, which was a heavyweight fight. It was a lot of fun to be a part of,” Engle said. “When you are from Glenwood, there is a tradition of playing really, really good defense. And our kids just enjoyed the challenge that is Basalt and they just played well.”

Talking to both coaches, there is strong belief the teams very well could meet again before the spring season is out. With only two weeks remaining in the six-game regular season, Glenwood (4-0) is in charge of the 3A West, although it will host Rifle next week in a game that could make the battle for the league title a free-for-all should the Demons lose.

Basalt (3-1) will certainly drop from its No. 1 spot in the poll, but shouldn’t fall far, especially after routing Rifle only last week. The Longhorns travel upvalley to rival Aspen next week; the Skiers host Steamboat Springs on Saturday.

Rifle (3-1) rolled to a 63-6 win over Salida (0-4) on Friday night.

“The road to the state championship runs through Basalt and Rifle,” Engle said despite Friday’s win over the Longhorns. “It’s not the first game that is going to matter, it’s the second time that we play. There is no question that for us to continue doing what we want to do, we will likely see Basalt again. A tremendous amount of respect from our locker room to theirs. That was a heck of a football game.”


Aspen football looks to keep momentum, hosts Steamboat Springs on Saturday

Aspen High School football plays against Montezuma-Cortez on Friday, April 2, 2021, on the AHS turf.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The game will feature two teams fighting for their playoff lives. It will also feature two teams coming off impressive first wins that will look to keep the momentum rolling.

Fresh off a wild win last week, the Aspen High School football team will host Steamboat Springs on Saturday afternoon in a battle of 1-2 teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. on the AHS turf.

“They are a lot in the same boat that we are with the condensed season and in the spring versus the fall with young players,” AHS coach Travis Benson said of Steamboat. “They are making huge steps forward every week, just like we are.”

The Skiers opened the season with road losses to Glenwood Springs (41-14) and Rifle (56-14), arguably two of the best teams in this spring’s one-off Class 3A. But Aspen responded in a big way last Friday, beating Montezuma-Cortez in its home opener, 40-28, to finally get in the win column and keep its playoff hopes alive.

Held to 14 points in each of their first two games, the Skiers’ offense really came alive against the Panthers, while the AHS defense only got better as the game progressed and made many key stops in the latter parts of the contest to hold on for the win.

“Offensively we got the ball moving,” Benson said of what he liked out of last week’s game. “The second one would be just the aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. Kids are starting to play with that confidence.”

Steamboat opened its season against Montezuma-Cortez, losing 12-3. The Sailors then lost 34-14 to Basalt before a 38-0 rout of Salida last week to get their first win.

Neither Aspen nor Steamboat is ranked (top eight) in this week’s CHSAANow.com poll, voted on by media and the like, although they would effectively be No. 9 and No. 11, respectively.

However, Aspen was ranked No. 7 in 3A in RPI (rating percentage index) prior to the Friday night games, an important number considering that’s what will largely determine playoff seeding. Steamboat was only No. 14 in RPI in the 16-team classification as of early Friday.

This will be a rare Saturday afternoon game for Aspen, but with it comes a few advantages, such as warmer weather and that extra day of practice during the week, which can be especially beneficial when trying to build momentum from a big win.

“Practice has been solid. Gaining an extra day helps,” Benson said. “A lot of cleaning up of mistakes.”


Basalt, Glenwood to meet on the gridiron in a rare contest with a lot on the line

Basalt High School quarterback Matty Gillis throws against Rifle on Saturday, April 3, 2021, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won, 38-7.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

For two schools separated by only 20 miles, there isn’t much in the way of recent history between them on the football field.

But Friday night, Basalt High School will host Glenwood Springs on the gridiron in a critical league contest that has been a decade in the making. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the BHS field.

“I’m sure my kids know who is under the helmet a lot better than I do. So I think it’s super fun for the valley,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “It’s two great football teams and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for those kids to play. We haven’t played a game under the lights this season yet either, so I think that Friday night football, with a huge game on the line and two teams from the same valley, all those things add up to a really, really fun night for the kids.”

Basalt and Glenwood haven’t played a varsity football game against each other since Sept. 2, 2011, according to the MaxPreps archives. Glenwood rolled to a 33-7 non-league win in that season’s opener.

The teams had been scheduled to finally play a non-league game this past fall, but after the pandemic reshuffled the landscape and split football into two seasons, the Longhorns and Demons suddenly found themselves as unlikely league foes in this one-off spring campaign.

Adding to the drama, Basalt enters as the No. 1-ranked team in the 16-team Class 3A, while Glenwood is No. 3 this week in the CHSAANow.com poll. Both teams are 3-0 midway through the six-game regular season and Friday’s winner will have a significant advantage in terms of possible seeding as the postseason nears.

While the 1 vs. 3 matchup is fun for headlines, it’s the RPI (rating percentage index) that will largely determine seeding and is what’s really at stake. Glenwood enters at No. 3 in RPI this week in 3A, while Basalt is tied with Rifle at No. 4. The Academy (3-0) and Sand Creek (2-1) are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. They both play out of the 3A East.

“I have a great deal of respect for their program. I think Carl just does a fantastic job with his kids,” Glenwood coach Pat Engle said of Basalt. “On paper, he’s had a lot more success as of late than Glenwood Springs. So he’s just doing a fantastic job there.”

The Longhorns are coming off a surprise dismantling of perennial powerhouse Rifle in last week’s 1 vs. 2 matchup in Basalt. The 38-7 BHS win was by far the worst defeat for the Bears since a season-ending 49-7 playoff loss to Palmer Ridge in the fall of 2017.

Basalt also has tallied wins over Steamboat Springs (34-14) and Salida (55-0) this season. All three BHS games have been played on a Saturday afternoon.

“I don’t think for Basalt, nor for Glenwood, there are any surprises that will come out. They are a power-run team and they’ve got nice play-action pass off of that,” Engle said. “They are big, they are strong, they are physical, they are experienced. They just beat what I would consider a very good football team pretty handily. They are definitely formidable.”

Glenwood’s Garrett Dollahan gets pushed out of bounds during the season opener against Aspen.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Glenwood’s route to 3-0 included wins over Aspen (41-14), Montezuma-Cortez (27-12) and Coal Ridge (42-12). Both GSHS and Basalt play in the Class 3A West, a new one-off spring league. All regular-season games this season are league games, with the Longhorns and Demons the only undefeated teams remaining in the West. Rifle is a game back at 2-1 overall.

Basalt has been preparing for Glenwood since last summer with the belief they’d met for that non-league matchup in the fall before the Roaring Fork School District opted to play football this spring instead.

“We had film and ideas on what we thought we’d do against them in preparing. We knew it was going to be a battle,” Frerichs said. “This definitely puts more on the line than a non-conference game. Just in league standings and playoff standings there is a lot riding on this game. But either way we knew it was going to be a tough challenge.”

Both teams lean heavily on the run game. Glenwood has a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield with junior Blake Nieslanik (440 yards, five TDs) and senior Garrett Dollahan (377 yards, two TDs). Frerichs said the Demons also run out of the shotgun a lot, on top of their normal double-wing formation, and expects his defense will have to contend with both looks on Friday night.

“More than anything, what I’m really pleased with is how positive the kids are with each other. How much they care for each other, how much they play for each other and how focused they seem to be week in and week out,” Engle said. “We are a work in progress. We are a hard-working group. We have some great senior leadership that I’m really pleased with and we’ve got some kids who have settled into some roles and they are just doing their jobs, and doing them pretty well.”

With Basalt junior starter Cole Dombrowski out for the season with injury, junior Gavin Webb has taken over the bulk of the work at running back. He’s performed more than admirably, rushing for 414 yards (138 yards per game) and six touchdowns this season. Sophomore Trevin Beckman has filled in nicely as the backup, including last week’s 79-yard outing against Rifle.

Statistically, BHS has a more formidable passing attack behind senior quarterback Matty Gillis. He’s thrown for 296 yards at a 56% clip with six touchdowns and only one interception. Senior speedster Rulbe Alvarado is the main target, accounting for 142 receiving yards on 10 catches, five of those for scores.

“How this league is setup, with all of us kind of being in the valley together, I think it makes a lot of fun for the kids,” Frerichs reiterated. “Pat has those kids in the weight room. They are super physical. They know their assignments. They are flying around. So we are going to have to play well to have the outcome that we want.”

Friday’s game will also serve as homecoming and senior night for the Longhorns. As of Thursday evening, a limited number of tickets remained available for public purchase through BHS.


Sports briefs: Basalt volleyball wins fifth straight, Bridger Gile podiums again

Basalt High School volleyball hosts Gunnison on Saturday, April 3, 2021, inside the BHS gymnasium.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The Basalt High School volleyball team continued its torrid run with a 3-0 sweep of visiting Roaring Fork on Thursday. The Longhorns won all three sets by a score of 25-18 inside the BHS gymnasium.

Basalt (5-3) has now won five straight matches after a 0-3 start to the season, two of those wins coming over the Rams and another against Aspen. The Longhorns have swept all five of those contests.

BHS is next scheduled to play Saturday at Moffat County. Roaring Fork, now 3-5 overall, plays again Friday against Rifle.

Aspen volleyball is scheduled to host Grand Valley on Friday night. The Skiers are 1-6 overall, their lone win a 3-1 victory over Moffat County last weekend. AHS lost 3-0 to Cedaredge on Wednesday.

Basalt soccer loses to Roaring Fork

The Basalt High School boys soccer team played Thursday at Roaring Fork, losing 5-1 in what was senior night for the Rams in Carbondale.

The Longhorns fell to 1-5-1 overall, the lone win coming 5-0 over Moffat County on Tuesday. Roaring Fork improved to 4-3 overall after its fourth straight win.

Aspen soccer (1-3 overall) plays Friday at Moffat County in a game rescheduled from last week. AHS then plays Saturday at Delta.

Gile gets another podium, Arvidsson wins FIS race

No new national champions were crowned Thursday at the U.S. Alpine Championships, but racing did continue with a FIS alpine combined and super-G at Aspen Highlands.

Middlebury’s Erik Arvidsson won the super-G over Eagle’s River Radamus (0.30 back), who had won the super-G national championship on Wednesday. Sam Morse was third, 0.78 back of Arvidsson.

Arvidsson also took the combined title, holding off Aspen’s Bridger Gile. It was Gile’s second podium of the week after his bronze finish in the national championship giant slalom on Tuesday. Steamboat’s Jett Seymour was third in the FIS combined on Thursday.

The national championship portion of the event resumes Friday with two downhill training runs for both the men and women. The downhill national championship races are now scheduled for Saturday.


Basalt football puts Bears into hibernation, rolls 38-7 in critical 1 vs. 2 showdown

Basalt High School's Gavin Webb runs against Rifle on Saturday, April 3, 2021, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won, 38-7. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

There was nothing cute nor surprising about either squad’s game plan. And in that situation, when X’s and O’s probably won’t win the game, it mostly comes down to who wants it more and on Saturday that was the Basalt High School football team.

Hosting No. 2 Rifle, the top-ranked Longhorns put a surprising 38-7 shellacking on the Bears in the Class 3A West showdown, a game that is likely to have significant implications on the fast-approaching postseason.

“I felt like our kids did their jobs, and they did it exceptionally well,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “Really, it’s hats off to the kids. They are the ones flying around. When it’s smash-mouth football, you can line up in whatever you want, but really it comes down to the will of the kid and I felt our kids’ will was amazing.”

Basalt High School quarterback Matty Gillis throws against Rifle on Saturday, April 3, 2021, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won, 38-7. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Saturday’s game was certainly built up as maybe the best game of the regular season in Class 3A’s one-off spring season, as it featured the preseason top two teams and two of the favorites to likely come out on top of the 16-team classification. The last time the teams played — way back on Nov. 16, 2019 — Basalt dramatically beat Rifle 21-14 in double overtime to advance to the 2A state semifinals.

The long awaited rematch was hardly a thriller, with BHS taking a 24-0 lead into the halftime break in a game the Bears never seemed a part of.

“So proud of these kids’ discipline. During the week of practice, they are so dialed in,” Frerichs said. “Against those upper-echelon teams, it all comes down to discipline.”

Rifle quarterback Gavin Peterson runs with the ball against Basalt on Saturday, April 3, 2021, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won, 38-7. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Rifle — led by first-year head coach Todd Casebier, one of the state’s more experienced and successful coaches over multiple past stops — was uncharacteristically sloppy from the start. A muffed punt in the early minutes led to a Basalt field goal and a 3-0 score after a quarter.

The game remained relatively slow late into the second quarter before the wheels came off for Rifle right before halftime. Gavin Webb — starting at running back in place of the injured Cole Dombrowski — broke loose on a 20-yard touchdown run to make it 10-0 Basalt with 3:36 to go until the break.

Moments later, Basalt’s Rulbe Alvarado got the first of his two interceptions, leading to a 25-yard TD run by Webb for a 17-0 lead. Before Rifle could get to the locker room — which in this COVID season is just their end of the end zone — BHS quarterback Matty Gillis connected with Sam Sherry on a 19-yard TD pass and catch with only seconds remaining in the quarter and the rout was on.

Hoping to start the second half with a splash, Rifle instead came out flat. A quick punt by the Bears led to a short TD run by Gillis, which was set up by a 60-yard Webb run. Basalt tacked on its final score with about nine minutes to play, a short TD run by Trevin Beckman.

Rifle’s only points came on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Peterson to Embrey Marantino with nine second remaining in the game.

“You start looking toward the playoffs and all those things, it makes a huge difference,” Frerichs said of the win. “Especially with us being on the Western Slope, if we can’t get that home-field advantage, it makes a huge difference and we want to be home.”

The rout over Rifle should firmly entrench Basalt into that No. 1 spot and keep it as the 3A frontrunner. With only a six-game regular season this spring, teams are officially halfway through their seasons after this week.

The Bears dropped to 2-1 and into solo third place in the eight-team 3A West. All five teams below Rifle have at least two losses through three games.

The top two spots are held by Basalt and Glenwood Springs, both 3-0, who will play each other this coming Friday night in Basalt. Frerichs swung by to watch Glenwood and coach Pat Engle roll over Coal Ridge on Friday, a 42-12 win for the Demons.

“Pat has those guys flying around. They look great. They look physical,” Frerichs said. “A lot of the spring football it seems everyone is lining up and running right at you, so it’s not a lot of forward passing. We tell the kids all the time, it’s your will to get to the ball. I think that will be the key on Friday night as well.”


Gridiron tradition returns to Carbondale as Roaring Fork makes home debut in loss

Roaring Fork football returned to Carbondale on Saturday, the school’s first home games since 2017.

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Pay no attention to the scoreboard as the final whistle blew on a 47-6 blowout.

Forget for just a moment that the coronavirus upended high school sports and a lot of the community traditions this past year.

None of that mattered, given the fact that Saturday was a really big day for the Roaring Fork High School football program.

The Rams returned to the home field in Carbondale to play at the varsity level for the first time since the fall of 2017.

Though falling in the lop-sided affair to the Manitou Springs Mustangs, the Rams players and a modest crowd of student and family supporters soaked it all in on a warm, April afternoon in Carbondale.

After a winless 2017 campaign and with a dwindling number of experienced players, Roaring Fork decided to suspend its varsity program and rebuild the team through the middle school and junior varsity ranks for two seasons.

Rams junior David Good, a wide receiver on the team, was given the honor of singing the National Anthem before the start of the game.

“It meant a lot to me that coach (Eric Bollock) let me sing the National Anthem for the first varsity game here in a few years,” said Good, whose emotional rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” had some of the Rams players and faithful fans shedding tears.

“This is such a big milestone for this program, and I wanted to be a big part of it,” he said. “It could have gone better on the field, but everyone fought hard.”

Mike Metheney was in the stands watching his sons, junior TJ Metheney and sophomore Ryan Metheney, and the rest of the Rams play.

“I’m thrilled to see it. I think it’s just great,” Metheney said.

“It has been a little difficult with COVID, and all those impacts have made it hard,” he said of the revamped football seasons this school year that saw some Colorado high school play in the fall and others, including all of the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County schools, playing a modified schedule this spring.

“But, they’re all out there working hard, and the kids are happy to be a part of it,” Metheney said.

Coach Bollock’s parents, Bill and Kathy Bollock, were also in the stands cheering on their son and grandson, freshman Max Bollock, who is the Rams starting quarterback and plays strong safety on defense.

“They’re young, with only three seniors, and they had to play their first couple of games without some starters,” Bill Bollock said. “They’re doing OK. … They’ll get better.”

Added Kathy Bollock, “I think it’s awesome. It’s been a long, hard comeback. They’ve been fighting hard to get a team together from the littles up, and we’re just starting to see the results of that.

“There’s a lot more football to play, and these kids are going to grow up and be better and better,” she said.

Coach Bollock is a Roaring Fork alumnus (1994), in keeping with a RFHS tradition of inviting former students back to coach sports. The Rams’ last state football championship was in 1985 — the third in 12 years for Roaring Fork, which also had state titles in 1973 and 1977. That was followed by a couple of deep runs in the state playoffs in the mid-2000s.

“This was a good moment for Roaring Fork,” Bollock said. “The kids are excited, and varsity football’s back. We had a few mistakes that young kids tend to make. But we’re learning and getting better every week. We’re excited to be here, and for the fans to have Carbondale football again.”

Rams defensive coordinator Cody Burkholder played for rival Basalt back in the day, but said he’s proud of the Rams’ progress so far.

“We keep fighting, and we don’t give up,” he said. “We’ve got a long ways to go, but it all starts with heart and fight, and they have that.

“It’s about more than just football. It’s teaching them life stuff, and to never give up, and to try your hardest. …It’s all forward from here, we’re not taking any steps backward.”

The Roaring Fork student body is also glad to see Rams varsity football back.

“I think it’s really good that the program is starting back up, and it’s good for the school and the players,” sophomore Mia Shafer said.

Said fellow sophomore Katie Grijalva, “I think it’s going to bring a lot more school spirit, and hopefully the program keeps going. It’s a lot of fun.”

Barraza scores early

The Rams got off to a rough start on the field, giving up a long touchdown reception on the opening play to 6-foot-7 Manitou Springs senior Joah Armour.

Roaring Fork hung tough, though, and just a short time later sophomore running back Oscar Barraza set up his own touchdown on a breakaway run from midfield to inside the 1-yard line. Barraza got the handoff again and went in for the TD on the next play, but the Rams’ 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Rams were still in it after the first period, down just 14-6. But the Mustangs proved the more experienced team with efficient offense and a stout defense to pull away early, building a 35-6 lead over Roaring Fork at halftime.

Roaring Fork falls to 0-3 on the season, and will make the short trip next Friday night to play Grand Valley High School in Parachute. Game time is 7 p.m.


Aspen football wins wild home opener, beats No. 8 Montezuma-Cortez, 40-28

Aspen High’s Storm Silich runs against Montezuma-Cortez on Friday, April 2, 2021, on the AHS turf.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

After falling down early, the Aspen High School football team was able to stay at least a step ahead of No. 8 Montezuma-Cortez the rest of the way in a 40-28 win on Friday night in the Skiers’ home opener.

The win also signifies a bigger step taken by a young team that had started the one-off spring season with a pair of losses.

“We absolutely took a step forward. I’m proud of the effort,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “I’m not saying we didn’t have effort the last two weeks, but they ground through some hard times.”

The Skiers came into the game needing a win to keep their bleak playoff hopes alive in the shorted six-game pandemic season. As Benson hinted at earlier in the week, the first half was a shootout between two high-tempo spread offenses that were able to light up the scoreboard. According to the AHS stat keepers, the teams combined for 114 plays in the nearly two-hour long first half.

Aspen fumbled on its first play of the game, leading to a quick Panther touchdown less than a minute into the contest. It didn’t take long for AHS to regroup, with young quarterback Nate Thomas connecting with Judd Gurtman on a 35-yard touchdown for an 8-6 lead only four minutes in.

Montezuma-Cortez retook the lead not even two minutes later at 14-8, only to have the Skiers answer with a second Gurtman touchdown catch to make it 14-all (neither team attempted a standard extra-point kick the entire game).

The back-and-forth went on from there, with Aspen leading 20-14 after a quarter thanks to a 30-yard connection from Thomas to Charlie Williams. At halftime, the Skiers led 32-20, including yet another Gurtman grab with only 18 seconds to go before the break.

“We made our own mistakes, too, and those are the things we have to clear up as we get into the rest of the schedule,” Benson said of the offense. “I am proud of the offense. They got it rolling. Nate did a great job. But yeah, we got to clean up the little things.”

The game became increasingly sloppy late into the second quarter and into the second half, with turnovers and penalties dominating the flow. Neither team scored in the third quarter, leading to the Panthers scoring on a short TD run by quarterback Ty Blackmer to make it 32-28 with just under eight minutes to play in the fourth.

The Skiers effectively put the game away about 30 seconds later with an 80-yard connection from Thomas to Noah Akin. The Aspen defense made sure that was the end to the scoring.

“Defense in the second half, it truly was everybody running to the ball and that’s what makes a difference,” Benson said. “When you are pursuing and you are running to the ball, you are always going to have a lot of success.”

The loss dropped Montezuma-Cortez to 1-2 overall. The Panthers opened the season with a 12-3 win at Steamboat Springs before a 27-12 loss to Glenwood Springs last week. All regular-season games are league games this spring.

Aspen improved to 1-2 with the win after losses to Glenwood (41-14) and Rifle (56-14) to open the season. The Bears are No. 2 in Class 3A at the moment and play at No. 1 Basalt on Saturday afternoon.

“It feels good. I’m proud of these kids. They played with a lot of heart. Cortez played hard, too,” Benson said. “It could have gone either way there in the early part of the third quarter and that’s what I’m proud of, is just the effort and the attitude to get out there and play hard for four total quarters of football.”

The Skiers will host Steamboat Springs next week.


Basalt football hosts Rifle in big 1 vs. 2 showdown, Aspen home vs Montezuma

Basalt High School football hosts Rifle on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, on the BHS field. The Longhorns won the Class 2A state quarterfinal game in double overtime, 21-14.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

After opening the season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Basalt High School football team dropped to No. 2 behind Rifle despite an easy Week 1 victory. A week later, after both teams easily moved to 2-0, the Longhorns again jumped over the Bears in the CHSAANow.com rankings.

This week, instead of letting the voters decide who deserves that top spot, Basalt and Rifle will settle it themselves when the teams match up Saturday afternoon on the BHS field.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Spectating in the Roaring Fork Valley remains limited due to COVID-19 safety.

“Definitely 1 vs. 2 is going to be exciting for both schools and both teams. It’s a gigantic game,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “We’ve always respected their program to the highest level. We make our kids watch clips of things those kids do, just because of how well they execute.”

Top-ranked Basalt (2-0) has recorded wins over Salida (55-0 on March 20) and Steamboat Springs (34-14 on March 27) so far this season, while No. 2 Rifle (2-0) cruised by Coal Ridge (49-0) and Aspen (56-14).

With the new classification and league arrangement for the spring season, dubbed Season C, all games are against league opponents and only six regular-season games will be played. Meaning, the pandemic-delayed season will be halfway over after this weekend.

So, the outcome between Basalt and Rifle on Saturday should go a long way in determining the league title and possibly the top overall seed in what is expected to be an eight-team playoff bracket.

“Every year that our kids continue to have success and battle, I think it grows their confidence that they know if we play with intensity and play smart football that we really can compete with anyone,” Frerichs said. “But we have to have that intensity and play smart to be in any of these games with these upper-echelon teams.”

Rifle has long been one of those upper-echelon teams on the Western Slope, with three state championships to its name, the last coming in 2004.

The last time the two teams played was Nov. 16, 2019 — technically last season — a wild 21-14 double overtime home win for Basalt in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. The victory sent the Longhorns into the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual runner-up Delta. The Panthers opted for the fall season this year and are not playing this spring.

Steamboat Springs sophomore quarterback Cade Gedeon aims towards an open teammate during a game on Saturday at Gardner Field. (Photo by Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today)

Rifle and Basalt also played in the regular season last season, on Oct. 25, 2019, a 21-9 win for the Bears. Frerichs wouldn’t go as far as calling it a rivalry quite yet, but it’s reaching that level considering the big games the teams keep playing.

Rifle does have a new coach this year after a surprising resignation by Damon Wells at the end of last season. He was replaced by Todd Casebier, who has coached at multiple stops in Colorado, most recently at Castle View High School. The Bears don’t run the same wing-T offensive system under Casebier, but their philosophy remains much the same as it’s been.

“It’s smash mouth, inside run, outside run with some boot passes. So different schemes, but the same idea of what they are really trying to accomplish,” said Frerichs, who was less certain of Rifle’s defensive approach under the new staff. “They’ve ran two totally different defenses the first two weeks. So they probably have the advantage with us not knowing for sure whether they are going to be in what front.”

Skiers finally at home, face Montezuma-Cortez

After a difficult start to the season, the Aspen High School football team is likely looking forward to its home opener Friday night (6 p.m. kickoff) against No. 8 Montezuma-Cortez. It will be a rare spread vs. spread offensive show.

“I would argue the toughest two starts you could have had outside of putting Basalt in there,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “We are playing a good football team. A team we measure up and match up well against. But at the end of the day it’s who shows up Friday night and does all the fundamentals correctly and executes on all three phases of the game.”

Aspen starting quarterback Nate Thomas releases the ball during a Friday, March 26, 2021, game against Rifle. (Ray K. Erku, Post Independent)

Aspen (0-2) opened up with a loss at Glenwood Springs (41-14 on March 19) — a team that usually plays a classification higher than AHS — and at Rifle (56-14 on March 26). Montezuma-Cortez is 1-1 after beating Steamboat Springs in the opener, 12-3, and losing to Glenwood Springs last week, 27-12.

The teams have not played since opening the season with a non-league game on Aug. 28, 2015, a 29-12 win for the Skiers over the visiting Panthers.

Despite the 0-2 start this season, Benson sees the bright side with such a young roster. After falling down early to Rifle last week, Aspen did compete with the Bears for a while in the first half, but couldn’t maintain that play after the halftime break.

“We saw it. We started clicking about the second quarter and the belief started building. It’s a young group and it takes some of those plays,” Benson said. “You never want to look forward. It’s four solid seniors we lose, but it’s a team that is basically built around them that are all sophomores and juniors. It gives you a lot of optimism down the road. It gives these young guys not only an opportunity to learn from those quality seniors, but an opportunity to get some varsity playing time.”


Basalt football finds way past Steamboat in scrappy game, eyes Rifle showdown

Basalt junior Cole Dombrowski pushes towards the endzone to score despite Steamboat Springs senior Jameson Tracy trying to bring him down during a game on Saturday at Gardner Field.
Photo by Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Carl Frerichs had prepared for a shotgun-heavy Steamboat Springs offense entering Saturday’s game, but the Basalt High School football coach had to work some magic when the Sailors uncorked a surprise option-centered attack against the Longhorns.

It all worked out for Basalt in a 34-14 league win at Gardner Field in Steamboat, but it certainly had to be earned.

“Makes it hard when you prep all week and then they change their offense. They did some good things and they definitely did not hurt themselves,” Frerichs said. “We just didn’t have a lot up our sleeve, and credit to them.”

Basalt opened the unique spring season as Class 3A’s preseason No. 1 team and won 55-0 over Salida last week at home. BHS, for reasons unknown, dropped to No. 2 this week behind preseason No. 2 Rifle, while Steamboat came in well off the grid.

The Sailors came out swinging on Saturday, a key fourth-and-13 conversion leading to a short touchdown run by senior Finn Russell on their first possession to make it 7-0 home team with about eight minutes already chewed off the clock.

While the BHS defense had a few issues, the offense ran like clockwork most of the game. The Longhorns answered right back, scoring on their first possession when junior Cole Dombrowski scored from a couple of yards out to make it 7-7 after the first quarter.

On the next possession, Basalt took a 14-7 lead thanks to an 8-yard catch from speedy senior Rulbe Alvarado on a fade to the left corner of the end zone from senior quarterback Matty Gillis.

Steamboat Springs sophomore quarterback Cade Gedeon aims towards an open teammate during a game on Saturday at Gardner Field.
Photo by Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Basalt had a chance to take firm control on its next two possessions, but the first ended with a Gillis interception in the end zone by Steamboat senior Chris Morris, and the Sailors stopped BHS on the final play of the first half when the Longhorns had the ball inside the SSHS 10-yard line.

“Offensively we played really well. We moved the ball. We missed some opportunities,” Frerichs said. “Defensively, we take ownership as coaches. I just don’t think we had a very good game plan. It was a 50-50 thing with the game plan and just execution and all of the above.”

Basalt got it together to open the second half, walking right down the field and finishing the drive with a short TD run by junior Gavin Webb, a missed extra point making it 20-7 Longhorns. A quick Steamboat punt led to another Basalt scoring drive, this one ending with a 7-yard TD run by sophomore Trevin Beckman for a 27-7 lead.

Steamboat Springs sophomore Cade Gedeon tries to evade Basalt junior Wilson Maytham during a game on Saturday at Gardner Field.
Photo by Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat didn’t back down as sophomore quarterback Cade Gedeon connected with junior receiver Ben Schott from 23 yards out for a score to cut it to 27-14 with a touch less than 10 minutes to play.

The Sailors were gifted a couple of late chances to get back into the game, but couldn’t capitalize. BHS put the game away when Gillis found Alvarado for a 4-yard TD with only a couple of minutes to go.

“They are a big, physical team. They are going to give a lot of teams a tough run. They were a lot bigger than what we were expecting,” Frerichs said of Steamboat. “You learn so much when it’s a battle, and I think we learned a lot about ourselves and things we need to work on, which will really help with practice this week.”

Webb did most of the damage, tallying 124 yards rushing on 23 carries for Basalt. BHS rushed for a collective 272 yards. Gillis was 11 of 20 passing for 107 yards, plus 49 more yards rushing. Alvarado had five catches for 38 yards and the two scores.

Alvarado also tied with junior Wilson Maytham for the team lead with five solo tackles each. Beckman and sophomore Jamie Dolan each recorded a sack.

Steamboat Springs junior Ben Schott reaches for a pass under pressure from Basalt senior Rulbe Alvarado during a game on Saturday at Gardner Field.
Photo by Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat fell to 0-2 overall and 0-2 in the 3A West league. The Sailors next play at Salida (0-2) on Friday.

Basalt (2-0) will host Rifle (2-0) on Saturday afternoon in the game of the spring in Class 3A. It will be preseason 1 vs. 2, in some order, and a rematch of last year’s Class 2A state quarterfinal game, won by Basalt in double overtime, 21-14.

The Bears do have a new coaching staff this season, but have so far looked just as formidable as usual with wins over Coal Ridge (49-0) and Aspen (56-14) to start play this spring.

“Super excited for the kids. I’m sure they are really excited for the game,” Frerichs said. “We are definitely going to need to have a great week of practice and work on some things we struggled with today. But so excited for the kids to have this opportunity. I really do think it’s going to be a battle out there.”

Aspen is 0-2 after losses to Glenwood Springs and Rifle. The Skiers host Montezuma-Cortez (1-1) on Friday night.