Basalt High football stays undefeated, beats Rifle 22-7; AHS falls to Grand Valley |

Basalt High football stays undefeated, beats Rifle 22-7; AHS falls to Grand Valley

Basalt football's Cooper Crawford is tackled by a group of Rifle players on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

RIFLE — Rifle High School football has faced some tall tests so far this season. Dangerous teams, like Glenwood Springs, Moffat County and Delta. 

With the exception of the Panthers, each game against these teams for Rifle ended in a close loss via touchdown or less. Meanwhile, the Bears beat teams like Brush and Montezuma-Cortez.

“This is probably the longest gauntlet I’ve been on with a team,” Rifle head coach Ryan Whittington said.

On Friday night, the Bears had to take on another powerhouse: undefeated Basalt. Though the Longhorns won, it was by a conservative 22-7 differential.

Whittington said his team, for the most part, played disciplined football. Had it not been for a few big plays executed by Basalt, it could’ve been a different ball game.

“That was the three-play difference in the game, and sometimes you have to stop those plays to be able to get yourself a little bit closer,” he said. “But we’ll watch the tape, we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better.”

The usual suspects were at it for the Longhorns. Basalt running back Cooper Crawford — a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior who also plays linebacker — was good for an-up-the-gut touchdown at 6:39 of the second quarter.

Longhorns senior quarterback Kade Schneider then connected with trusty senior receiver Luke Rapaport for an 18-yard touchdown catch.

Longhorns senior Will Keating also hit three field goals.

Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said his kids played their hearts out.

“I thought coach (Mitch) Levy and coach (Clayton) Peetz did an amazing job on the offense,” he said. “I just think our kids are flying around, playing great football.”

But tip your hat to the Rifle defense. They held the potent offense of Basalt to a field goal on the game’s opening drive. They also caused the Longhorns to punt multiple times throughout the night.

Every time Crawford got the ball, it was as if the entire Bears’ line was on top of him. Whenever Schneider dropped back to pass, his receivers were well covered and he was forced to toss to the sidelines.

Rifle senior running back Nicholas Saldivar rewarded his defense. At 11:31 in the second quarter, Saldivar took a handoff from his own 27-yard line, juked his way past a host of Longhorns and sprinted for a 73-yard touchdown run.

“It was incredible, man,” Whittington said of Saldivar’s play. “Nico made a great cut, the O-line did a great job blocking and he bustled down the sidelines.” 

Trialing 9-7, the Bears had a chance to take the lead. After forcing a Longhorns’ punt, they’d march downfield to Basalt’s 32-yard line. But an offensive holding call on the Bears kept them from the end zone.

Basalt football’s Dylan Madden tries to avoid against Rifle on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Making another push early in the fourth quarter, Bears junior quarterback Logan Gross was intercepted by Longhorns sophomore Taylor Hays. This easily could’ve led to a touchdown had intended Bears senior receiver Brandon Marques not been picked off. 

The loss makes the Bears a 2-4 overall and 0-2 in league. They currently sit in fifth place in Class 2A League 6, while Basalt is at the top.

But the Bears still have a fighting chance for postseason glory. They face Aspen, Grand Valley and Coal Ridge to close out the final three games of the regular season.

“Right now, we’re sitting 12th and we just lost to an undefeated team, so your (ratings power index) is not going to hurt much,” Whittington said. “The reality is, I think if you win these three games, you’re in.

“But we’ve got to make sure we’re staying together, we’re doing the right things, staying positive and keep working hard to become the best we possibly can be.”

Basalt, now 6-0 and ranked No. 4 in 2A this past week, prepares for a joust with a 5-1 overall, 2-0 league team in Moffat County next week in Craig. The Bulldogs are led by senior running back Evan Atkin.

“They’re doing a great job over there. (Atkin) is one heck of a player,” Frerichs said. “But we’re gonna enjoy this game tonight and we’ll get ready for Moffat tomorrow. But we’re glad to be right there for the league championship next week.”

Rifle next plays Friday at Aspen. The Skiers lost Friday at home against Grand Valley, 29-7, to fall to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.