Time to turn the page for Basalt football | AspenTimes.com

Time to turn the page for Basalt football

Nate Peterson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Nate Peterson/The Aspen TimesAfter being sidelined with turf toe and missing a large chunk of last season, Basalt senior quarterback Corey Ostrander is back healthy heading into the 2009 season.

BASALT – For his first tattoo, Chantry West originally wanted to have a sizable skull inked into his left forearm. He changed his mind at the last minute, though, and settled on something less confrontational: One of the Grateful Dead’s iconic dancing bears.

“I wanted to be underestimated,” he said.

The confident senior linebacker and fullback for Basalt expects the same will be true for the Longhorns this season.

Basalt is coming off a 4-6 campaign and lost 16 seniors – four of them first-team all-league selections – to graduation. The Longhorns also weren’t competitive against the class of the 2A Western Slope in 2008, getting outscored by Aspen, Grand Valley and state champion Olathe by a combined 137-35.

It’s safe to say none of those teams – aside from maybe rival Aspen – have Basalt circled as a red-letter game this fall.

Which is just fine with West and his six fellow seniors. The group knows from previous experience that respect can only be earned on the playing field.

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“We’ve had to watch older seniors and all the upperclassmen say they wanted to go far and never do it,” said West, who returned to his hometown for his senior season after going to school in Oregon last year. “We’ve made the obligation this summer with the workouts and with the Mesa State camp to take it to a whole new level.”

Added senior quarterback Corey Ostrander: “We have the players, we have the potential. We just need to show people what we can do and perform on Friday nights.”

Ostrander himself is ready to show the 2A Slope that, when healthy, he is among the best signal callers in the league. An equally gifted runner and passer in Basalt’s single-wing attack, Ostrander became Basalt’s starter under center as a sophomore two years ago, but last season found himself watching from the sidelines while trying to overcome a turf toe injury. Then-senior Dylan Buck, who split time with Ostrander during the first three games, took over full-time when Ostrander went down and wound up finishing the season with nearly 500 passing yards and another 350 on the ground.

Ostrander said losing the starting job taught him not to take anything for granted heading into his senior year.

“Last year was very disappointing,” he said. “This year I really want to step it up and show these guys what I can do.”

Whatever Ostrander and the Longhorns do this season, it will be in brand new uniforms and new black helmets, replacing the silver ones worn in recent years.

Second-year head coach Carl Frerichs said the changes have sent a message to players that it’s time to turn the page at Basalt.

“We’ve just tried to switch things up,” he said. “Just putting some pride into the program. That’s what these kids and these coaches have been working on, and really, they’ve been doing it every day in practice. They’re just taking it one day at a time and trying to get better.”

That mentality, unlike in previous years, started months ago in the weight room. Team attendance at offseason workouts was the highest Frerichs has seen during his seven years coaching at Basalt. The Longhorns also had some 40 players go to Mesa State’s camp this summer, where they competed in pads for a week against players from bigger schools.

“I feel like we’re a tougher team this year,” Frerichs said. “Just overall, one through 40, I feel like we’re a tougher team just because of all the commitment they’ve put in.”

West said the Longhorns are a tight-knit group heading into Friday night’s opener at 1A Meeker.

“Spending time together has [taught] us that we can trust the guy next to us,” he added. “In the past, I’ve always relied on seniors, saying a senior is always going to be better. I’ve learned that to fail. This year, I don’t care if it’s a sophomore. If he has as much heart, and he’s ready to play, then we’re going to count on him.”

Considering how competitive the 2A Slope has become, Frerichs said he’s going to need every man he has got. While the coach expects upperclassmen like West and Ostrander and linebacker/offensive guard Chris Walker to lead the stampede, success this fall could hinge on how well a group of talented sophomores makes the adjustment to varsity football, he said.

Among those Frerichs mentioned were outside linebacker/tight end Tanner Banc, defensive back/running back Zach Mobilian, linebacker/wide receiver Johnson Emerson and defensive tackle/center Tito Gamboa, who started last year as a freshman.

“I’m pleased with them so far,” Frerichs said. “… I just feel really strongly about my sophomore class. They are head and shoulders above what we’ve had in previous years, just in terms of all-around classes. All 11 of my sophomores can play. When they were in eighth grade, they were the first team to have a winning record at the middle school.”

The coach also said the Longhorns’ depth will be improved by some new senior and junior additions.

Ish Martinez, a converted soccer player, should see time at tackle on both sides of the line this fall, and safety/running back Max Kendrick is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him in 2008.

Frerichs, for one, expects the Longhorns to surprise some teams this fall. Basalt only has to look upvalley for evidence that drastic turnarounds in the Slope are possible in the span of one year. Opponents can underestimate Basalt – but they may do so at their own risk.

“It’s 2A football, anything can happen,” Frerichs said. “Two years ago Gunnison won our league and then last year they went 0-10. You really never know until you get into the season, and the start of that first game.”

npeterson@aspentimes.com