Basalt football expects playoff-like contest with Aspen in season finale
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday in Basalt
The game will have playoff implications, but when Basalt High School hosts Aspen football on Friday night, all those scenarios won’t mean a whole lot. That’s often how rivalries work, with local bragging rights meaning a lot more to some than even a chance at a postseason run.
“Records and everything just get thrown out. It’s two teams that know each other really well,” longtime BHS coach Carl Frerichs said Thursday. “You want to have those bragging rights for the year that you beat your neighbor, whether you are the team going to the playoffs or not. It’s a big game for both schools.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday on the BHS field. As far as those playoff implications, No. 10 Basalt (6-2 overall) feels it’s already a playoff lock regardless of the outcome against Aspen. The Skiers, at 3-5 overall, are likely too far out in terms of RPI (rating percentage index) to make the postseason, although it can’t be completely ruled out.
That said, Aspen is coming into the game like it’s the last, a final hurrah for the roughly 16 seniors who were freshmen when Travis Benson began his second stint as the team’s head coach heading into the 2018 season.
“It’s always fun to play the rivalry game each year and being able to play that game with our seniors at the end is something to look forward to,” said Benson, an AHS graduate who played in many of these rivalry games himself. “These seniors are fantastic young men. They came in when I took the head coaching job, so I’m very close with them. They fill the full spectrum. You’ve got a healthy chunk of linemen, a lot of receivers, Porter (Lee) being quarterback. They play every spot on the field and they are a good group of kids that truly love each other and play for each other.”
Basalt will say farewell to its 13 seniors — plus one manager — in a pregame ceremony. However, should the Longhorns win, they will have a decent chance of hosting a first-round playoff game.
As of Thursday evening, Basalt’s RPI is No. 8 in Class 2A, with the top eight seeds hosting when the postseason begins next week. Aspen’s RPI was No. 22 as of Thursday evening, with league foe and defending spring state champion Rifle coming in at No. 24.
“Really, we are playing for playoff seeding, which does make a huge difference, so the kids know how important this game is,” Frerichs said. “I’m really proud of my seniors that have really shown a lot of grit and perseverance with football, with COVID, all they’ve gone through. It’s a really special group and we are definitely going to miss this group when they move on.”
Ending the skid(s)
Aspen hasn’t beaten Basalt since a 21-10 win in 2013 under former coach Mike Sirko. Beginning with a win in 2014, the Longhorns have tallied seven straight victories over their upvalley rivals, including a 51-8 romp in the one-off spring season earlier this year. The last time they met in the fall, however, BHS barely escaped, winning 17-14 in 2019.
The Skiers also are trying to end their road woes this season. Aspen went 3-1 at home this fall, but is 0-4 on the road. Those losses have all come against solid teams, including three straight non-league losses to Class 3A opponents (Summit, Battle Mountain, Steamboat Springs), and a 62-35 league loss at Moffat County, a team currently ranked No. 5 in the state with a 7-1 record.
“You have to play disciplined football,” Benson said of beating Basalt. “You can’t beat yourselves in this game, either team, and that’s what it comes down to, is disciplined, execution-based football against a team that does it very well.”
Super Bowl Saturday
Of note, Aspen’s third- and fourth-grade youth football team will play Glenwood Springs in the Mountain West “Super Bowl” at 1 p.m. Saturday at Basalt Middle School. Aspen went 5-1 this fall, including three shutout wins. Both teams are sponsored by Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224.
The fight was there until the bitter end for the Longhorns, but the hole that was dug was too deep to climb out of.