Second-half comeback lifts Basalt football over Paonia, 7-6 |

Second-half comeback lifts Basalt football over Paonia, 7-6

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – The Basalt football team has scored just 14 points in its last two games. Somehow, it has turned that production into two wins.

Friday, the Longhorns opened the second half with a 12-play drive that covered 76 yards – more than double what they produced in a lackluster first half – and was capped off with a 15-yard touchdown run from Scott Hoffman. The Basalt defense withstood one final push from visiting Paonia in the final minutes to hang on for a 7-6 win, improving to 2-1.

The Longhorns travel upvalley Friday to open 2A Western Slope play against rival Aspen.

“Scoring seven points is not where we want to be right now,” Basalt quarterback Corey Ostrander said. “We’re having trouble finishing drives. We know we need to be better. … It’s nice to know the defense can pick us up, though.”

The Longhorns could muster just 31 yards and two first downs during a first half in which they went three-and-out three times and punted on four of five possessions. Their third drive ended when Eagles cornerback Adrian Penny pulled off an acrobatic one-handed interception at the Paonia 43-yard-line.

“We needed to run harder, and the offensive line needed to work harder,” Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said. “We didn’t do anything.”

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“Coach was upset in the locker room [at halftime],” Ostrander added. “That first drive after halftime, we were all pumped up to get a score. … We had to do it.”

Coaches moved Ostrander from under center to shotgun to throw off Paonia in the second half, and the plan worked. With Ostrander and tailbacks Chantri West and Zach Mobilian leading the way on the ground, the Longhorns sustained a long drive. Ostrander pushed the pile on a keeper on third down to move the chains midway through the drive then, after Mobilian was stopped for no gain, the senior signal caller hit wide receiver Tanner Banc on a well-executed, 10-yard curl route to set Basalt up at the Eagles’ 37.

Later, Ostrander faked a hand-off and shook off multiple tacklers on a 15-yard scamper up the right sideline. On the next play, he handed off to Hoffman on a run off left tackle; Hoffman beat two defenders to the corner and dove past the goal line.

Freshman Bertilo Garcia converted the extra point to break the tie.

“Corey really took the lead. He’s a great athlete,” Frerichs said. “That’s the best the offense has looked all year.”

Frerichs’ defense turned in a second-consecutive strong showing. While they bent often during the first half against an unorthodox Eagles spread attack, the Longhorns came up with two turnovers on downs and a fumble recovery to stall three Paonia drives in Basalt territory. Two of those drives were at least nine plays.

Early in the second quarter, Eagles quarterback Casey Gillenwater took the snap, faked to tailback Adrian Lopez and sprinted up the right side. A Longhorns player drilled him, jarring the ball loose; linebacker West alertly pounced on the ball and secured it.

Paonia finally broke the scoreless deadlock when, after receiving the ball at the Basalt 40 following a punt with 1:21 remaining before the break, Gillenwater executed the hurry up offense to near perfection with a series of short passes to multiple receivers. With 29 seconds remaining, he connected with Taylor Bradford, who went up in traffic to snare the 13-yard pass near the pylon.

“They’re a tough team to prepare for,” Frerichs said. “Every week, we prepare for the run or the play-action pass, and then we see the shotgun, the two-wide, the three-wide. … For a lot of the game, we were on our heels.”

That was apparent when Frerichs was forced to burn two timeouts in a 13-

second span late in the fourth quarter because defenders were out of position.

That defense bailed the Longhorns out for a second straight week, however. It stopped the Eagles on a fourth-and-goal at the Basalt 4 with 2:57 to play in the third quarter to preserve the one-point lead, then came up with a stand to all but seal the game.

After forcing a turnover on downs, Paonia took over on their own 22 with 6:20 to play and immediately got to work. The Eagles strung together a dramatic 16-play drive, during which they converted on a third-and-11 and a fourth-and-11 – the latter coming when receiver Blaine Escher jumped and snatched the ball away from a defender, gaining 13.

The drive stalled in the red zone, however, as Gillenwater threw two incompletions and was stuffed on an option, bringing up fourth-and-10 with 2:37 remaining.

On fourth down, he tried to hit Escher on a slant, but overshot his target.

After picking up one first down, Ostrander found himself kneeling on the ball for the second straight Friday.

“They drove down, but we kept our heads up and stuffed them on fourth down. That was the changing point right there,” Ostrander said. “I don’t mind [kneeling] at all.”

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