Basalt High standout Ernesto Lopez signs with Western Colorado for football
Of all the attributes that stood out about Ernesto Lopez — and there were a lot — first was his ability to adapt in whatever way the team needed him to. A multi-position star over the past four years at Basalt High School, the 6-foot-1, 250-pounder will take those skills with him when he plays college football in Gunnison.
“We talked a lot about it, but I really do think this is a great opportunity and a great fit for him,” said longtime BHS football coach Carl Frerichs. “He did whatever was best for the team. His sophomore year, he was our starting fullback on that team and for a kid to go from a starting fullback his whole sophomore year to going to left tackle because that was best for the team, I think it’s a perfect example of what type of kid he is.”
Lopez signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday in Basalt, inking to continue his football career at NCAA Division II Western Colorado University. Wednesday was the first day of the regular signing period for DI and DII football, and Lopez was one of 36 signees officially announced by the Mountaineers.
BHS hosted a small signing ceremony for Lopez on Wednesday afternoon, where he was joined by his father, Ernesto Lopez Sr., and his mother, Lizbeth Lopez.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches for a while now and in the back of my head I had this day marked down and the day just came and it was an emotional, fun day for me,” Lopez said of finally signing. “I looked around and they talked to me about playing there and I visited the campus and fell in love with the atmosphere and how much work they put into their football program. So I wanted to be a part of that.”
Lopez finished his Longhorn career as a standout on both lines, and was notably dominant on the defensive line where he had the ability to dictate games on his own. He recorded 55 total tackles and was second on the team with 5.5 sacks his senior season.
However, Western has recruited him to play on the offensive line, most likely at center, which is just fine in Lopez’s mind.
“They want me to play center, but we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m just going to work hard.”
Western, which plays out of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, went 5-6 in 2019, a sizeable step up from a 2-9 season in 2018. Kyle Roberts, a 2017 BHS graduate, originally signed with Western as a receiver but is no longer with the team.
Lopez didn’t start actively looking at programs until after the 2019 football season, and Western immediately became his top choice. He helped the Longhorns to a historic four-year run, which included three straight nine-win seasons and a trip to the Class 2A state semifinals this past fall.
“Western was my No. 1 option, so the decision was easy for me. I got lucky with that,” Lopez said. “It’s for sure sad leaving Basalt, but I know that me and my fellow senior boys gave it all we got. We pretty much left this spot in an amazing place and I know they are going to keep going and do better things.”
Lopez said he plans to study sports and exercise management at Western.
While football is his No. 1, Lopez also is a standout wrestler with BHS set to head to regionals next week. He also has a growing passion for rugby, having played for the Junior Gents high school team in the valley, and said he can see himself playing rugby after his football career is over.
“The biggest thing for me is I’m just so excited for him and his family that he gets to continue in a great opportunity,” Frerichs said. “The school has what he wants to do in the future and it’s really high-level football.”
Frerichs said BHS football would return for spring camp May 26, with a multi-team scrimmage scheduled for June 5 in Glenwood Springs.
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Season B, the normal winter sports season, is fast approaching the finish line. The Aspen High School boys basketball team will play its final regular season game Saturday at home against Moffat County.