Basalt football holds off Paonia in overtime thriller |

Basalt football holds off Paonia in overtime thriller

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesThe Longhorns' Josh Andrade eludes a Paonia defender on a long punt return in the first half of Friday's season opener in Basalt.

BASALT – Defense repeatedly bailed out offensively challenged Basalt in Friday night’s season opener against Paonia.

Quarterback Matt Williams and tailback Cody Banc returned the favor in overtime. On the first play in extra time, Williams, a converted guard making his first start under center, wheeled and fired a strike to Banc in the flat on the far sideline. The shifty junior took it from there, following blockers and bulling his way into the end zone.

The Longhorns defense stuffed the Eagles four consecutive times from there, and the home team hung on for a 13-6 victory.

“That’s Basalt football. We play good defense and good special teams, and we’re still trying to figure it out on offense,” head coach Carl Frerichs said. “We’re going to have to get a lot better on offense if we’re going to do what we want to, but I think we have what we need.”

The Longhorns’ new-look, zone-read offense struggled mightily for three quarters Friday. Four of its six first-half drives started in Paonia territory, yet Basalt could muster just 46 total yards in the first 24 minutes. There were two special-teams gaffes – one a missed field goal from 52 yards and another a botched snap on a three-point attempt – and Williams was intercepted in the corner of the end zone in the waning moments of the second quarter.

“We probably were trying to do too much with our new offense in the first half,” Frerichs said. “We had so many new starters and the timing and tempo were all messed up.”

Still, the game was tied at zero at the break because of the Basalt defense, which forced four punts and recovered two fumbles in seven first-half Eagles possessions.

Paonia finally managed to break through with about 90 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Following a second interception from senior cornerback Taylor Katzer, the Eagles took over at the Longhorns’ 36-yard line and proceeded to march into the red zone. On first-and-goal from the 8, 6-foot-3, 270-pound lineman Tony Darling lined up in the backfield, took the ball and dragged nearly the entire Basalt defense across the goal line.

The Eagles failed on a two-point conversion but pulled ahead, 6-0.

The Longhorns answered right back, following a second fumble recovery from Jonny Madrano deep in Paonia territory. After a screen pass to Banc set Basalt up at the 7, Madrano took the handoff and rumbled seven yards up the middle, squaring the game with 10:26 remaining in regulation.

A botched snap led to a failed extra-point attempt – an issue that plagued Basalt all evening.

Two-time All-State kicker Bertilio Garcia missed three field goals and did not have a chance to attempt three other kicks because of errant snaps.

“We have a new snapper and a new holder. It just takes time,” Frerichs said. “I don’t think you can blame one guy. Things will get better as the season goes on. We certainly have the kicker.”

Garcia had the chance to gain some redemption in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Austin Snyder recovered a fumble in the waning seconds, then Basalt advanced the ball to the Paonia 13 before calling a timeout with five seconds to play.

Garcia’s ensuing 30-yard attempt was blocked, and the game went to overtime.

The Longhorns wasted little time pulling ahead. Then, they stood tall on defense.

Darling’s first-down run up the middle was stuffed, and then quarterback Ty Coats’ attempted screen pass was broken up by a host of Basalt players. Katzer caught a screen on third down, but Tucker Jenkins closed quickly and dropped the big wide receiver for a nominal gain.

Coats bobbled the snap on fourth down and instinctively attempted to sprint out of the pocket and up the middle. A Longhorns player dragged him to the turf to seal the victory.

“They’ve worked their tails off – this is the best-conditioned team we’ve ever had,” Frerichs said. “They weren’t dying off or having their hands on their knees at the end.

“I thought we really stepped up in the second half. I’m really proud.”

The Longhorns visit nonconference rival Roaring Fork at 7 p.m. Friday.

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