Opportunistic defense propels Basalt football | AspenTimes.com

Opportunistic defense propels Basalt football

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesLonghorns running back Zach Mobilian looks to make a play as Paonia's Taylor Katzer closes in for the tackle Friday night at Basalt High School.

BASALT – The Longhorns are still trying to find their way on offense. Their defense appears primed for conference play, however.

Basalt forced five turnovers and stifled visiting Paonia’s air and ground games Friday. The Longhorns jumped out to a 29-0 lead after two quarters and rolled to a 32-7 victory in their final tuneup before 2A Western Slope play commences.

“The first-team defense really set the tempo,” Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said. “Getting an interception on their 20 to start the game really made a difference and helped us jump on them.”

On the opening possession of the game, the Longhorns’ J.R. Krueger deflected a third-down toss from Eagles quarterback Anthony Roeber; Jonny Madrano picked off the pass, setting up Basalt at the Paonia 21-yard line.

Six seconds later, after a 21-yard run off tackle from speedy tailback Zach Mobilian, the Longhorns pulled ahead, 6-0.

The opportunistic Longhorns made Paonia pay for a botched pitch midway through the second quarter. When Roeber’s option toss hit the turf, the Longhorns’ Rory Mackey alertly pounced, scooped it up and sprinted 43 yards the other way. Basalt scored a two-point conversion to stretch its advantage to 14.

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While the Longhorns struggled sustaining drives, they did produce a host of big plays. The most impressive came some 3 minutes before halftime, when Mobilian took a handoff, sprinted through a gaping hole in the Eagles’ defense, then bounced outside and scampered 76 yards up the far sideline for the touchdown.

Later, in the waning seconds of the half, Drew Bair, filling in for an injured J.R. Krueger at quarterback, dropped back on fourth and 6 and lofted a 37-yard touchdown pass up the near sideline to Johnson Emerson.

“We’re still struggling to grind out play after play and first down after first down,” Frerichs said. “We’re finding out more about ourselves offensively. Last year we were more of a grind-it-out-team. This year, we’re opening it up and are a little bit more of a big-play offense.

“Drew came in and did a phenomenal job passing the ball. He and J.R. were competing all summer. Both of them are more than capable, and the great thing is the guy that backs up has had some varsity snaps. He was ready to go.”

Bertilio Garcia drilled a 44-yard field goal in the second half for Basalt, which moved the ball but had multiple drives stall because of penalties and dropped passes.

Roeber scored the Eagles’ lone touchdown on a 1-yard keeper in the third quarter. Paonia struggled from there, however, as they lost a fumble and turned the ball over on downs on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.

The Longhorns will need a similarly dominant defensive effort if they are to pull off an upset Friday, when they visit reigning state champion Olathe. The Pirates routed Basalt, 28-7, last fall.

“We’re excited. If we play hard, we believe we match up with any team in the league,” Frerichs said. “Last year, we were down 14 at halftime, and the game was closer than 28-7. We feel like we’ve gotten so much better. We’re a totally different team.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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