Basalt, Rifle football set for rematch in second round of Class 2A playoffs

Calling it a rivalry game might not be accurate, at least today. After the weekend, it might be worth talking about.

The Basalt High School football team is set to host Rifle at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs. The recent history between the teams only goes back a few seasons now, a series dominated by the Bears. But if the Longhorns get what they want Saturday, a real rivalry could result from the upset.

“It’s sort of like a rivalry,” Basalt receiver Rulbe Alvarado said. “It’s not like Aspen, but you always want to beat them no matter what just because they are a great team and they always bring it. So beating them would be really great.”

Rifle (10-0) is the top overall seed in this year’s bracket. The Bears rolled over No. 16 seed Englewood in the first round last week, winning 48-15. Basalt (8-2) is the tournament’s No. 9 seed, having gone on the road to knock off No. 8 The Classical Academy in the first round, escaping 13-7.

You can view the complete bracket here.

Basalt is the host team on Saturday due to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s rule that attempts to prevent teams from traveling back-to-back weeks in the playoffs. The Longhorns are certainly glad to be playing at home this weekend, although Rifle’s relative proximity will likely result in a large road crowd and a nearly neutral-site feeling.

The teams played as recently as Oct. 25 in Basalt, Rifle winning 21-9 after trailing early in the fourth quarter.

“There is going to be a huge crowd out here. I think the environment out here is going to be insane. Playoffs are just different,” BHS senior receiver Jackson Rapaport said. “We’ve never actually made it to the third round in football playoffs, so if we win this we are all trying to make history.”

Basalt is no stranger to the playoffs in recent years, although this is believed to only be the third time its ever played in the second round of the 2A state playoffs. The other two times came in each of the past two seasons, which ended with second-round losses to Bayfield (41-0 in 2017) and Platte Valley (46-9 in 2018).

Getting into the state semifinals would be uncharted territory for the Longhorns.

On the flip side, Rifle has long terrorized this side of the state with its dominance, most of it coming under longtime head coach Damon Wells and mostly in Class 3A. This includes a pair of state championships, the most recent coming in 2004.

“We are grateful we get another stab at them, because we feel like we missed our chances last time and we are here to come take it,” Rapaport said. “I don’t think we’ve ever beaten them. I think because of that they may be in our heads a little bit. But after that last game, we showed ourselves that we can beat them. I can’t speak for everybody else, but I know I’m ready.”

Rifle moved from 3A into the 2A Western Slope League last season, winning the first of now back-to-back WSL titles. Having been in different classifications all those years prior, the teams essentially never played each other, at least this century according to the MaxPreps records. The teams finally came together for a two-game, non-league series in both 2016 and 2017, when Rifle was still 3A. The Bears won 48-34 and 34-14 before a 35-14 win in 2018 when they became league foes.

Having beaten Basalt four times in four years, Rifle will certainly be favored on Saturday. But the Longhorns feel they have closed the gap and want to prove to the state they belong and step into the semifinals for the first time.

“No matter who you play, there are only eight teams remaining,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “It’s a super special time for these kids and the kids probably don’t realize it now, but these are going to be memories these kids are going to remember forever.”

The winner of Saturday’s game will face either No. 4 Delta or No. 5 Faith Christian in the semifinals.