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 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.


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