Basalt football ends Aspen’s playoff dreams
The Aspen Times
The football playoff dreams of the Aspen Skiers disappeared Friday in the Friday night lights at Basalt.
In a classic edition of the annual upper Roaring Fork Valley football rivalry, Basalt High School stunned Aspen 28-22 in the final regular-season game of the year Friday night, likely ending the Skiers’ seven-year run into the state playoffs.
The Longhorns, who had led for much of the game, fell behind 22-21 in the fourth quarter but rallied for the dramatic victory at Basalt High School.
Richie Guerrero scored for the Longhorns from the 4-yard line with 3:27 to play in the game, David Flores added the point-after kick, and Basalt returned to the lead — for good.
The Longhorns’ defense, led by Jake Levy, stopped the Skiers on their final drive of the game, and Basalt celebrated a rivalry victory over Aspen.
“Richie Guerrero …he had a huge night for us,” Basalt head coach Carl Frerichs said. “And we had a great catch in the end zone … another huge play.
Frerichs said the young Basalt offensive line played very well in the comeback victory.
Guerrero and Josue Vigil combined to power the Basalt running game in the fourth-quarter comeback drive.
Vigil had two long runs and converted a key fourth-and-1 for the Longhorns.
The Longhorns took advantage of field position and a strong kick-return game Friday.
Plus, they had no turnovers.
After a long kickoff return by Alex Nakagawa to set up a touchdown in the first half, the Longhorns got another long return by Nakagawa in the third quarter to set up a 7-yard scoring run by Guerrero, giving Basalt a 21-8 lead.
But Aspen rallied.
Senior quarterback Tyler Tick was knocked out the game in the second half after a big hit. Freshman RJ Peshek took over behind center for the Skiers.
He drove the Skiers 58 yards for a score, with tailback Ryan Fitzgerald leading the way.
Fitzgerald, the returning all-state tailback, bulled across from the 2-yard line for the touchdown.
On the two-point conversion, Aspen’s pass in the end zone fell incomplete leaving Basalt in front 21-14 with a minute to play in the third quarter.
Peshek competed a 30-yard pass to Harry Ferguson to key the drive.
After forcing a Basalt punt, Aspen drove 55 yards for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Fitzgerald, with the majority of carries, scored from the 4-yard line to pull Aspen to within 21-20.
With regular kicker John Heaphey playing soccer for the Skiers in the state playoffs Friday in Denver (and scoring a key shootout goal), the Skiers went for a two-point conversion with Peshek passing to Harry Fergusion for a 22-21 Aspen lead with 9:15 to play.
That set the stage for Basalt’s game-winning drive as the Longhorns wrapped up the season 3-6 overall, 2-3 in the Western Slope North League — with a huge win over the Longhorn’s rival.
Aspen also ended the year 2-3 in conference. The Skiers are 4-5 overall.
Fitzgerald wrapped up his record-setting career with 205 yards rushing (unofficially) on a season-high 40 carries.
He scored two touchdowns.
Aspen scored first Friday night after a scoreless first quarter.
The Skiers drove 51 yards, mainly on the rushing of Fitzgerald, for the first score of the game. Tick powered across from the 1-yard line with 5:20 to play in the second quarter. Tick passed to Evan Morris for a two-point conversion and an Aspen 8-0 lead.
The Longhorns answered immediately.
On their first play from scrimmage after a 40-yard kickoff return by Alex Nakagawa, the Longhorns completed a 52-yard touchdown pass from Miles Levy to Martin Castillo.
Flores added the point-after kick, and Basalt cut the Aspen lead to 8-7 with 5:05 to play in the half.
Basalt’s Jake Levy recovered an Aspen fumble on the next possession, giving the Longhorns the ball at Aspen’s 10-yard line.
Miles Levy passed 10 yards to brother Jake for the touchdown. Flores’ kick extended Basalt’s halftime lead to 14-8.
“With Jake (Levy), we flipped him to the strong side with the tight end all night. That helped,” the Basalt coach said of the Longhorns’ leading tackler.
He said the real key to the game was the fact that the Longhorns had no turnovers.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the kids,” Frerichs said, adding that the nine seniors at BHS were able to go out with a big victory.
“We had our ups and downs this seaon, but I think we learned a lot … couldn’t be prouder.”
Winning the Longhorns Invite on Tuesday in Carbondale was Steamboat Springs senior Jeremy Nolting, with a 2-over-par score of 74. Aspen High School senior Carson Miller was second overall with a score of 75.
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