Basalt defense shines in win over Rams | AspenTimes.com

Basalt defense shines in win over Rams

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesLonghorns quarterback Drew Bair rolls out and looks to make a play as Roaring Fork's Nate Nieslanik closes in Friday at Basalt High School.

BASALT – Basalt students took part in a “Ram Roast” on Thursday, tossing a plastic Roaring Fork mascot into a bonfire in the school parking lot.

Friday, opportunistic offense and stout defense helped the Longhorns burn their valley rivals on the gridiron.

Basalt jumped out to a 10-0 lead at halftime, forced five second-half turnovers and rolled to a 17-6 victory, improving to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in 2A Western Slope play.

“The defense played awesome again tonight,” Longhorns head coach Carl Frerichs said. “I really feel like they’re as good as anyone in the league.”

The Rams struggled to move the ball all night against a Basalt defense that held reigning state champion Olathe to just 17 points in a loss last week. Roaring Fork could muster just 13 yards of offense on its first four drives Friday – all three-and-outs.

The Rams (1-4) gained some traction on their fifth possession, marching deep into Basalt territory. They stalled at the 14-yard-line, however, and quarterback Clay Gross’ fourth-down toss to the corner of the end zone slipped right through receiver Dakota Grett’s hands.

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A connection would’ve trimmed the Longhorns’ lead to 10-7.

After forcing a Roaring Fork three-and-out to open the game, the Longhorns strung together an 11-play, 55-yard drive that resulted in a 25-yard field goal from Bertilio Garcia.

Drew Bair was picked off by Rams cornerback Trent Reeds on Basalt’s next possession, but the quarterback made amends. He capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive with an

11-yard touchdown toss to receiver Johnson Emerson, stretching the home team’s lead to 10-0 about 7 minutes, 50 seconds before halftime.

Basalt’s next two possessions ended in punts as it struggled mightily to get the ground game going.

“Truthfully, you have to give credit to Roaring Fork. They’re huge up front,” Frerichs said. “This week was our first week running the I [formation], and I think our kids did a good job with the schemes. But we knew we were going to have a hard time running.”

Still, with little more than 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter, the coach opted to dial up a run on fourth-and-goal at the 5; senior tailback Zach Mobilian took the pitch, collided head-on with a defender but somehow managed to maintain his balance and dive across the goal line, giving the Longhorns a 17-0 cushion.

“I felt like we were in control of the game there – we had a two-score lead and the defense was dominating,” Frerichs said. “I felt like if we didn’t get it, they would have it at the 5 and we’d get it back.

“Let’s be honest, Zach made that play on his own. He is an incredible talent.”

The defense made sure the lead held up – and made sure Basalt did not pay for four turnovers, three of which came in the second half. The Longhorns forced five turnovers in the final 24 minutes. Tanner Banc led the way with two interceptions.

The Rams managed to trim the deficit with about 71⁄2 minutes remaining in regulation, when Gross rolled out and hit Grett with a 14-yard scoring strike.

Roaring Fork missed the extra point, but appeared primed to get the ball back near midfield after forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing Basalt possession. A Rams player called a fair catch on the punt, but fumbled the ball back to the Longhorns.

Later, with about 1:46 remaining, Johnson Emerson picked off Gross to secure the victory.

“We had two turnovers inside the red zone … but I felt like we controlled the game,” Frerichs said. “I was confident.”

Basalt will take on another valley rival next Friday, when it visits Aspen.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com