Basalt football beats Salida, advances to 2A quarterfinals against mighty Bayfield | AspenTimes.com

Basalt football beats Salida, advances to 2A quarterfinals against mighty Bayfield

The Longhorn defense wasn't particularly great against visiting Salida on Saturday, but it certainly was stingy when it had to be. Led by the undersized unit, the Basalt High School football team was able to overcome a halftime deficit and make history.

"I don't start a kid over 200 pounds on defense, but they play hard, they fly around and they definitely step up and make some big plays out there," BHS coach Carl Frerichs said. "The way they fought for four quarters was huge for us, because we haven't had one of those games for a while. I really feel like every kid stepped up and did some huge things."

Basalt, the No. 6 seed in the Class 2A state tournament, persevered for a 28-22 first-round win over the 11th-seeded Spartans. It was only the second playoff victory in school history, and first in 2A. The other playoff win came in 1979 while in 1A.

The win also did a lot to make up for last year's first-round defeat, a 27-20 home loss to No. 9 seed D'Evelyn when BHS was the eight seed.

"It's an amazing feeling," Basalt senior lineman Oswaldo Morales said. "This is beyond incredible. This is four years of work paying off. And we believe this is just the beginning to greater things coming for us. You can't describe it."

The win sends Basalt (9-1 overall) into the 2A quarterfinals for the first time in school history, where it will face No. 3 seed Bayfield at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Bayfield beat No. 14 seed Elizabeth 51-0 on Saturday.

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Salida, which was playing in the postseason for the first time since 2009, finishes the season 7-3 overall.

"To make history on a day like today and with all my family and teammates, it's amazing," Basalt junior quarterback Trevor Reuss said. "We never thought we were out of it. That's our whole goal through the whole season, to keep persevering and pushing through, playing as a team."

Unlike most of the season, where the Longhorns trampled the majority of their opponents, the Spartans put up a fight and even led at halftime. After BHS took a quick 7-0 lead following a 9-yard touchdown run by senior Noah Williams, Salida answered with its own scoring drive, finishing it with a 12-yard pass and catch from quarterback Bridger Russell to Eli Smith.

Tied 7-7, Salida had a chance to take the lead but was stopped on fourth-and-one from the Basalt 3-yard line. Moments later, Salida's Hunter Clark scooped up a Williams fumble and returned it roughly 20 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Spartan lead early in the second quarter.

"We definitely had our backs against the wall in the first half," Frerichs said. "We just haven't had one of those games for a while, so with the adversity to respond like that showed great perseverance."

Basalt answered on its next possession, capping off a quick drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Reuss to senior Juan Rosario, which Frerichs said was just "Trevor making a great play." The extra point was missed, however, and BHS went to the locker room down 14-13.

The game's statement drive came right out of the half, when Basalt went 60 yards in less than four minutes for a touchdown. Reuss connected with senior receiver Griffen Jenkins from 8 yards out and Williams ran in the 2-point conversion to give BHS the 21-14 lead.

"In the first half there were a lot of emotions going around," Morales said. "We had to fight through that and persevere through the first half. But coming out in the second half we knew we could do it. We just didn't play our football in the first half and we were very excited and knew we had to put the pedal to the metal."

The Basalt defense did much of the work from there. Salida once again drove into BHS territory on its first possession of the second half, but was again denied after going for it on fourth-and-goal.

Reuss threw what could have been a costly interception early in the fourth quarter still leading by a touchdown, but made up for it a few plays later by getting a critical sack on Salida's Russell that put a quick end to their drive and kept the momentum in Basalt's favor.

"We let in a few big plays, but got down to the red zone, buckled down and played our best," Reuss said of the defense. "You can't ride the roller coaster, as coach always says. Throw that interception, get up, and make a play."

Salida forced Basalt into a punt with a touch over four minutes to play, and Torres — who does a little bit of everything for the Longhorns — had his kick stop dead at the Salida 1-yard line, leaving the Spartans a full 99 yards away from the end zone down a score.

Basalt didn't let Salida get past its own 10-yard line before turning the ball over on downs again, and a few plays later Reuss snuck the ball into the end zone from a yard out for a 28-14 BHS lead with 2:24 to play.

Salida did get a wild touchdown pass and successful 2-point conversion with 45 seconds remaining, but Basalt pounced on the onside kick attempt to put the game to rest.

Now, it's onto undefeated Bayfield, which won the 2A state title as recently as 2015, when it finished 12-0. The Wolverines went 9-3 in 2016, losing to eventual state champ La Junta by a point in the 2A semifinals.

"Obviously, any teams left now are amazing teams. We just hope that we step up to the challenge," Morales said. "We feel that we can give anyone a ride for their money. As long as we execute and play hard, we can be one of the best teams in the state."

Also winning first-round playoff games in 2A were No. 1 seed Platte Valley (46-34 over No. 16 D'Evelyn); No. 8 Eaton (24-13 over No. 9 Sterling); No. 4 La Junta (34-0 over No. 13 Pagosa Springs); No. 5 The Classical Academy (36-24 over No. 12 Aspen); No. 7 Faith Christian (17-0 over No. 10 Bishop Machebeuf); and Resurrection Christian. The 15th-seeded Cougars pulled off the biggest upset, stunning No. 2 seed Kent Denver, 29-21.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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