Basalt stops Aspen football on final play to win regular-season finale
The Aspen High School football season came down to one play, and the failure to make it was evident in the tears shown postgame. On the other end of the field, Basalt was jubilant for finding a way to grit out an important 17-14 win in Friday’s regular-season finale on the AHS turf.
“What a great high school football game,” BHS coach Carl Frerichs said, as Aspen coach Travis Benson was 100 yards away hugging his own players after the game. “And I know for Travis and his boys it’s heartbreaking, and that could have gone either way. I know we are feeling wonderful right now, but we were one or two plays away from feeling the exact opposite.”
Basalt rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to score with less than two minutes to play and the defense held on to give the Longhorns the win. The loss likely means the season is over for the Skiers, who entered Friday’s game with an RPI of 16, a number that could slip and keep them out of the 16-team Class 2A playoff. The brackets are expected out Sunday.
“The amount of character and class that this senior class embodies is unbelievable,” Benson said. “The pain they feel right now, it is genuine, it is real, it is a lot of work that went into it. These kids played their hearts out. Basalt played a heck of a football game, but at the end of the day, I am proud. Our kids have class, character, integrity — they are quality young men. They will be successful in life because of it.”
For Basalt, the win likely means it’ll get to host a home game next weekend in the first round of the state playoffs. BHS was in the playoffs regardless of how the Aspen game ended, but the win should keep them in the Roaring Fork Valley as the postseason gets underway.
“I think we are definitely in that deserving role,” Frerichs said of getting to host a playoff game, “but no matter what, we got to go in and win, so whoever we match up with we’ll be ready to go play and get another week together.”
Friday’s game was a defensive one, especially in the first half. Neither team scored in the first quarter, even after AHS senior running back Jack Seamans busted loose on a 68-yard run only to have the Basalt defense make a fourth-down stop a few plays later.
Basalt broke the ice early in the second quarter when junior quarterback Matty Gillis connected with senior receiver Jackson Rapaport for a 38-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. On the next possession, Aspen answered back when junior quarterback Tyler Ward connected with senior Dillon Hendrickson from 25 yards out. The missed 2-point conversion sent Aspen to the halftime break down, 7-6.
Basalt’s lead grew to 9-6 less than two minutes into the second half when Ward was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a BHS safety. That score held into the fourth quarter when, on fourth-and-8, Ward connected with senior Jonathan Woodrow for a 15-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion gave AHS a 14-9 lead with about seven minutes to play.
“Really, really proud of my kids to grit it out,” Frerichs said. “That’s two huge wins this year where we are grinding, grinding, grinding, and we came back and won, which shows great perseverance for my boys.”
Seamans made a big play minutes after the touchdown when a sack and fumble gave AHS the ball back up by five. The Aspen offense was forced into a quick three-and-out, and Basalt made the most of the second chance. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Gillis snuck it in for the score, a 2-point conversion making it 17-14 with only 1:56 to play.
Aspen got as far as the Basalt 35-yard line, but a pass from Ward to Hendrickson was broken up by Rapaport on fourth down with roughly 20 seconds to play. A kneel down by Basalt put the game to rest.
It was the sixth straight win for Basalt in the rivalry, going back to an Aspen win in 2013. The Skiers finished the regular season 4-5 overall and 2-3 in Western Slope League play. Basalt improved to 7-2 and 3-2 and finished third in the 2A WSL behind league champion Rifle and runner-up Delta.
“We definitely got to get back to the drawing board and do some things better,” Frerichs said of preparing for the playoffs. “We definitely have some things to look at. This practice week was difficult. I lost so much sleep, because normally you get so much time to be prepared and when you are on the snow all week, I know we were not as sharp as we needed to be.”