Basalt High School football heads to mighty Rifle to open season on Friday | AspenTimes.com

Basalt High School football heads to mighty Rifle to open season on Friday

Basalt sophomore Henry Twitchell, left, attempts to drag down D'Evelyn's Josh Riggs during last year's playoff game in Basalt.

One of the Basalt High School football team's biggest statement games last fall was its season opener at home against Rifle. Yes, the Longhorns lost 48-34 en route to a 1-2 start, but it was the sort of matchup that helped pave the way to their historic finish.

"We had our opportunities last year in that game and we didn't make some big third-and-five stops or fourth-and-five stops," BHS coach Carl Frerichs said. "It's a great game for us because I don't think there is a better team to show you what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, because they are so well disciplined and so well coached, you are going to know after a game what you are good at."

Basalt finished 2016 with a 7-3 overall record, going 5-0 in Class 2A Western Slope League play. It was the first league title for BHS in more than 30 years.

Class 3A Rifle went 8-3 last season, somewhat of a down year for a team that has won at least 11 games three times since 2011 under longtime coach Damon Wells.

Rifle enters 2017 receiving votes to be ranked in 3A. The Bears host Basalt at 7 p.m. Friday in a zero week matchup to start the season. Basalt is receiving votes to be ranked in 2A.

"The kids are tired of listening to coaches and they are ready to get out there and go play and have some fun," Frerichs said. "It helps us when we play these really tough teams. Realistically, in my opinion, Rifle is one of the best programs in our state."

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Quarterback Trevor Reuss is set to get his first start for the Longhorns. The junior played in a reserve role behind Miles Levy last season, stepping up in a big way when Levy was hurt early on in the team's 27-20 first round playoff loss to D'Evelyn.

Among the most talked about additions to the team is senior transfer Noah Williams at running back. Basalt lost its leading rusher from last season, Alex Alberto, to transfer, but is clearly excited about Williams. The former ski racer made the state track meet in the spring as a sprinter.

"Noah is just an amazing athlete," Frerichs said. "We return a lot of starters, and I know there are some kids that are really looking forward to having a bigger role on the team this year and they want to show what they have."

While some other big names are gone, like Kyle Roberts at wide receiver, the team still returns seven of 11 starters on offense and six of its top seven tacklers on defense. Frerichs expects a lot of improvement from the defense compared to last year.

"We were a little bit young on that side last year and we are a year older, a year bigger, a year stronger," he said. "We have to get more disciplined."

Basalt's defense will be tasked with slowing Rifle's vaunted run offense, although the Bears did graduate a pair of 1,000-yard rushers from 2016.

Following Friday’s game at Rifle, the Longhorns will be off next week before hosting Grand Valley on Sept. 8 and Delta on Sept. 15. Their league title defense begins Sept. 30 at Steamboat Springs.

Basalt and Moffat County, which play on Oct. 20 in Craig, are again expected to be the top two teams in the 2A WSL entering the season.

"We like to go back on the good memories, but it's a new year," Reuss said of last year's league title. "We are looking to take from last season and continue. We don't want to let the town down, but we'll be working hard and we'll be confident. We use it as motivation."

acolbert@aspentimes.com

2017 BHS football schedule

Aug. 25 at Rifle

Sept. 8 vs. Grand Valley

Sept. 15 vs. Delta

Sept. 22 vs. Battle Mountain

Sept. 30 at Steamboat Springs

Oct. 6 at Aspen

Oct. 13 vs. Coal Ridge

Oct. 20 at Moffat County

Oct. 27 vs. Roaring Fork