Basalt puts five on all-league team
At only 5-foot-8-inches, Willy Klein is a bit undersized for linebacker. The Basalt junior more than makes up for it with his relentless attitude.Coaches around the 2A Western Slope took notice this season, awarding Klein – who tallied the second-most tackles in 2A with 130 – a spot on the all-league team.Klein, who also started at fullback, was the only junior from Basalt to earn the honor, joining senior standouts Tucker Hinchliffe, Rory Johnson, Tony DiBacco and Ryan Gawrys on the team.”The guy just lives and breathes football,” said Longhorns coach Forrest Grosh. “If you’re around him, he’s contagious. I’m ready for him to be the leader and take this team to the playoffs. I’m expecting a lot of big things from him – both on the field and off it. He’s an energizer. Kids feed off his energy out there.”Basalt’s hopes of making the playoffs were dashed with heartbreaking losses to league powers Olathe and Roaring Fork. The Longhorns (3-6, 3-4 league) ended the season with a deflating defeat at Hotchkiss to finish fourth in the 2A Slope.In spite of falling short of its season goals, Basalt had one of the most potent offenses in the league, spearheaded by Hinchliffe under center.The senior was a threat with his arm and his legs, racking up 1,039 yards passing (fifth-best in 2A) and 338 yards on the ground off 64 carries.Hinchliffe’s favorite target was Johnson, who in eight games racked up 317 receiving yards off 18 catches – good for 17.6 yards per catch. Gawrys was Basalt’s second-leading receiver with 11 catches for 152 yards – although the senior was likely picked by opposing coaches for his contributions on defense. He finished with 40 tackles from his cornerback spot – 27 of them solo stops – and pulled in five interceptions.DiBacco starred on both sides, wreaking havoc at defensive end and also dishing out hits while running the ball. He settled into the starting tailback role to finish as Basalt’s leading rusher with 697 yards off 102 carries – good for 6.8 yards a crack.The four senior standouts will be tough to replace, Grosh said.”It was an interesting mix of guys,” he said. “Just really talented on a bunch of different levels. They were the freshmen from my first year coaching, so it was fun to see them develop and grow up … I just wish we could have won some more games for them.”Hinchliffe was Basalt’s starting tailback last season before being injured in the first game and giving way to Ben Pollock, who went on to lead the 2A Slope in rushing.This season, Grosh built his offense around Hinchliffe’s multiple talents. WithContinued on following pagehis speed and running ability, opposing defenses had a hard time containing him.”He was a great quarterback in terms of taking care of the offense,” Grosh said. “He had a great ability to throw the ball downfield and great speed. He made some gigantic plays throughout the season … Defenses had to change their schemes because of him.” Johnson, at 6-foot-2-inches and 180 pounds, took advantage of his size against opposing cornerbacks. The senior missed one game because of a shoulder injury but came back to lead Basalt in receiving.”Tucker and Rory, those guys are the best of friends,” Grosh said. “They’ve been throwing the football together since they were little. [Rory] is a big receiver and just had great ability to go up and get the ball.”Because of his pass-catching ability, Gawrys understood what opposing receivers were trying to do against him while playing defense and when to look for the football. He was the embodiment of a “shutdown” corner, Grosh said.”It was just great to see him blossom through his four years,” Grosh said. “His older brother, Adam, was a great player for Basalt, and it was nice to see [Ryan] grow and become the player that he was … You could definitely see his confidence in his play out on the practice field. He also had some big hits providing run support. His toughness was a great attribute. He wasn’t afraid to put his nose in there.”As for DiBacco, he wasn’t afraid to put his nose anywhere. He played tailback the same way he played defensive end – at full speed on every play.”Definitely smashmouth,” Grosh said. “I’m not sure if he expected to be the starter this year, but he definitely filled the shoes. He liked to take the hit to the guys and he wasn’t afraid of contact. And when he got in the open field he had some breakaway speed.”Basalt also had five honorable mentions. Wideout and cornerback Chris Fitzgerald and two-way lineman Pat Redfern were the two seniors to earn the honor, followed by juniors Matt Schoeller and Morgan Frothingham and sophomore tight end Taylor Niko-Foreman. Schoeller played safety and returned punts while Frothingham played guard on offense and tackle on defense.Grosh singled out Redfern for his toughness. The senior came into the season with a broken wrist and then broke the other during two-a-day practices in August, yet continued to play.”He was in a lot of pain, but he just fought through it,” Grosh said. “A lot of kids would have sat out, but not him.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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