Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Chaos reigns in battle for league titles

Basalt and Vail Mountain players fight for a loose ball on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in Basalt. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

If there is a case of most perplexing team in the universe, it might be Basalt High School boys soccer. The Longhorns are 7-7 overall and are not getting a single vote to be ranked in Class 3A, yet they just might win the league title.

Seriously, if they beat host Delta on Thursday in their regular-season finale, BHS will be the Western Slope League champions based off head-to-head wins.

It’s that easy.

So, how did we get here? Basalt started the season 1-5, all non-league losses, the lone win a somewhat surprising victory of what was then a ranked KIPP Denver team. Since a 1-0 loss at Grand Junction on Sept. 13, Basalt has gone 6-2. A Sept. 25 win at Coal Ridge in league play was a monumental turning point in their season, especially considering the Titans beat them 4-1 on Aug. 28 in a non-league game.

Basalt’s only league loss came four days after the Coal Ridge win, a 6-1 loss at Aspen. The Skiers absolutely dismantled the Longhorns in that game, and Basalt looked like it had no right talking about league titles at the time. An 8-1 win over a bad Moffat County team led to a 4-1 non-league loss to Crested Butte, a team ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.

This last stretch of games has been incredible. Basalt beat lowly Grand Valley 5-1 before a shocking 3-2 double overtime win against Roaring Fork, which was ranked No. 3 in 3A at the time. The Rams had beaten Basalt 3-0 on Aug. 23 in BHS’s season opener, a non-league game. Basalt’s most recent win came Oct. 12 over Vail Mountain, 2-1.

Basalt is a lousy 2-6 out of league play, but is 5-1 in what is one of the stronger leagues in the state. And as far as the league title goes, only your league record matters. Entering Tuesday’s games, Basalt is tied with a lone league loss with both Roaring Fork and Coal Ridge, who play each other on Thursday in what is likely an elimination game. Delta technically has a chance with only two league losses and games against Basalt, Coal Ridge and Moffat still to go.

With three league losses, Aspen is out of the picture, although Thursday’s game against Vail Mountain could be for their playoff lives.

The top two teams in the WSL get an automatic playoff berth. The rest have to rely on that all-important RPI ranking. As of Monday night, Roaring Fork (10-1-1) led the league with an RPI of 3. Delta (8-3-1) is No. 8, Vail Mountain (9-4) is No. 9 and Coal Ridge (8-4-1) is No. 12. Basalt, which was at best a playoff bubble team a few weeks ago, is No. 22 and looks almost assured a spot in the playoffs, regardless of how the Delta game goes. Aspen (6-6) is No. 29 and probably needs to win its last two games this week to sneak into the postseason.

It should be a wild week.

What about football?

Yes, that’s a little chaotic at the moment, as well. And you can blame Aspen for that. Everything was set up for this week’s game between Basalt and Rifle to be for the 2A Western Slope League championship. They were clearly the two best teams.

Then, on Friday, Aspen said to heck with that by beating No. 3 and previously undefeated Rifle, 20-19, on the Bears’ own field. Basically, the Skiers hit the reset button on the league race.

With two games to go, it’s in Basalt’s hands. The Longhorns, ranked No. 4 in the state this week, are 7-0 and 3-0 in WSL play. Should they lose Friday to Rifle (6-1, 2-1) then your guess is as good as mine.

Aspen hosts Coal Ridge (1-6, 0-3) on Friday in a homecoming game they should win. Assuming they do, a win in the regular-season finale over Basalt, regardless of the BHS-Rifle outcome this week, would give Aspen the league championship.

By the way, if you are keeping tabs on RPI, Basalt is still No. 1 in the state, as they have been much of the season. Aspen is up to No. 8, Delta is No. 9 and Rifle is No. 12.

The rest of the week…

Golf, tennis and softball are a wrap for Aspen and Basalt. Volleyball is approaching the finish line with Aspen (13-5 overall, 5-1 WSL play) trying to lock down a postseason spot. The Skiers are at Vail Mountain Tuesday before hosting Grand Valley on Thursday for homecoming. They have a big one on Oct. 23 when they travel to Cedaredge.

Coal Ridge looks well on its way to another WSL title in volleyball, while Cedaredge and Aspen are in second with a league loss each. AHS is No. 23 in RPI as of Monday night.

The last big thing to mention this week is cross country. Aspen hosts it regional meet Friday morning at Aspen Golf Club, an honor most schools only get about once every 14 years. AHS has a strong squad and should get a handful qualified to state. They sent a solid contingent of girls last fall, and might have a chance to have a few boys tag along this time around. Basalt will also be there, with Sierra Bower certainly among the contenders in the girls’ race.