All-league: Longhorns aplenty | AspenTimes.com

All-league: Longhorns aplenty

Jon Maletz

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

BASALT In the wake of a disappointing season, Basalt football coach Forrest Grosh is searching for the silver lining.Sure, the Longhorns finished sixth in the eight-team 2A Western Slope, but Grosh said the team’s 2-7 record is deceiving. Five of those losses, including four to open the season, came against playoff teams. Two were by one point.”The record obviously wasn’t where we wanted to finish,” Grosh said Wednesday, “but the guys fought hard out on the field.”Eight of those players recently received postseason recognition. Seniors Willy Klein and Hayden Rinker, and juniors Taylor Foreman-Niko and Cody Kosinski were first team all-conference selections. Seniors Travis D’Anna, Kelly Klein, Andy Mayer and Taylor Wolters were honorable mentions. While his numbers weren’t as gaudy as in 2006 – when his 130 tackles were the second-highest total in all of 2A – Willy Klein exuded a confidence and energy his teammates could feed off of, Grosh said. At 5-foot-8, Klein was an undersized linebacker and running back. Still, the Longhorns looked for him to come up big.

They looked to him to bull his way up the middle in short-yardage situations. They looked to him to blow up opposing offensive plays in the backfield. He delivered.”His strength and passion for the game was definitely there,” Grosh said. “He has a motor that doesn’t stop.”While Basalt shifted its personnel often, Rinker was a constant on both the offensive and defensive line. The senior, one of three team captains, was reliable and stood out because of his great work ethic, Grosh said. Foreman-Niko almost singlehandedly led his team to victory over Roaring Fork on Oct. 19. The 2006 honorable-mention selection intercepted a pass on a fake field goal and returned the ball 83 yards for the score. Later he sacked Rams quarterback Jake Kinney for a 10-yard loss. The Longhorns scored on the ensuing possession.While Grosh said the Longhorns didn’t get him the ball as often as they would’ve liked, Foreman-Niko used his large frame to his advantage on defense. The 6-6 240-pound junior, who also served as the long snapper, knocked down multiple passes at the line of scrimmage and made running the option to his side of the field a risky proposition.”He brings some skills that guys at the high school level don’t have,” Grosh said. “He does a good job reading the offense and knowing his responsibility.”

Grosh said the Longhorns will also lean on Kosinski next year. The versatile junior logged time at linebacker, fullback, tight end and even played two games at defensive end. His carries increased as the season wore on, and so did his production.”We’re looking for him to step up and be a leader next year,” Grosh said. “He’s got a good group of guys behind him.” The Longhorns will need to fill the holes D’Anna, Klein, Mayer and Wolters leave behind. D’Anna missed his entire junior season after breaking his left ankle, but he returned to anchor the Basalt secondary. He also saw time in the backfield and as a slot receiver as coaches looked to take advantage of his speed in the open field.”He got himself mentally prepared, which was the biggest hurdle getting over the injury,” Grosh said. “He had pain, and it wasn’t a comfortable thing to deal with, but he gave his best as much as he could when he could. He had a lot of pain but was willing to work through it, and we believed in him.”Nose tackle Kelly Klein, along with twin brother Willy, caused havoc in opposing backfields. While he, too, was undersized, Grosh said Kelly held his own.

In addition to being a receiver, Mayer started at cornerback. Through the early portion of the season, he was near the top of 2A in interceptions, Grosh said. While he didn’t wow with his statistics, Mayer’s intangibles, great speed and heart impressed league opponents. Wolters sat out the first three games because he was academically ineligible. When he returned, the senior made his presence felt as both an offensive and defensive lineman. Grosh will have many players to replace on defense next season – a stark contrast to 2006 when the Longhorns lost many of their offensive skill players to graduation. But, in a league where parity reigned in 2007, Grosh said he expects Basalt to carry on and improve.”We’ve got some holes to fill, but it will be neat to see who steps into that role and who surprises us,” he added. “If we’re going to take that next step, we’re going to have to put the time and effort in. We need more than a handful of guys that buy into that if we’re going to be successful.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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