Crawford, physical Basalt run game have football team back in the postseason
No. 10 Longhorns play at No. 7 Brush on Saturday
The only real name that comes to mind among the National Football League’s elite to compare Cooper Crawford to is Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Listed as being 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, Henry is a massive running back by any standard.
Crawford, a junior on the Basalt High School football team, is listed as being 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and, relatively speaking, is about as difficult to tackle as Henry.
“We knew on the JV level he was going to be a special high school football player, so we are really excited to see him get out there and really shine,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said of his star tailback. “We always joke that when the biggest kid on the entire team is your tailback, it’s probably a little different. But he’s so athletically gifted. That interception he had in the (Aspen) game just shows the hands and feet he has.”
Playing varsity on the regular for the first time this fall, Crawford leads the team with 609 yards rushing on 94 carries with eight touchdowns. He’s a big, bruising runner who has become the centerpiece of the BHS offense. He’s also a standout defensive end.
“It’s great. A lot of people are surprised when they hear that I’m a running back,” Crawford said. “My dad, he was a running back, too, but he’s like 5-8, so I don’t know where the size came from.”
Crawford is a big reason why the Longhorns are back in the playoffs for the sixth straight season. As the No. 10 seed, Basalt (7-2) will play at No. 7 Brush (7-2) on Saturday in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Brush.
“They definitely are a smash-mouth team. They have a lot of kids that hit hard and have a pretty big line,” Crawford said. “We are definitely dialed in. We know what we need to do. Especially with us being a lower seed, we have that chip on our shoulder.”
Crawford’s success at tailback is aided by the re-emergence of senior Gavin Webb. Webb missed three games with injury this fall, but is back and healthy and gives Frerichs a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield with Crawford. Webb has rushed for 465 yards on 73 carries — both he and Crawford are averaging well over six yards a touch — with four touchdowns rushing.
As a team, Basalt has rushed for more than 1,600 yards this season, a 178.7 per game average. This includes 233 yards rushing from senior receiver Sam Sherry and another 149 yards from junior fullback Trevin Beckman.
“It’s great to not be on the field the whole time,” Webb said of trading out with Crawford at tailback and staying fresh. “Cooper is unstoppable up through the middle. He’s a basketball player, so that kind of explains how he moves like that. But he moves fast for his size.”
Crawford showed off his unique athleticism in a big way last week during Basalt’s 49-21 senior night win over Aspen. Rising up from his defensive end spot, he point-blank intercepted a pass — he admits he has decent hands — and returned it for a touchdown.
Webb had been the team’s leading rusher back in the one-off spring season with 774 yards on 105 carries and four touchdowns, while Crawford recorded 133 yards on 24 carries.
Most of this came after BHS lost then-junior Cole Dombrowski to injury; he had been the team’s leading rusher his sophomore season with 693 yards on the ground back in 2019. Dombrowski’s leg injury has limited him to duties such as punting and placeholding this fall.
“It’s such credit to Cole with coming back and even getting to punt to start the season. I didn’t know if he was even going to get to put on a helmet at all,” Frerichs said. “He’s such a huge factor. It is hard. Both of our running backs last year got banged up and you had that quick turnaround, so seeing both of them able to get out there more and more and play more and more has been an exciting thing for them and it’s huge for our team.”
The Longhorns will likely need all their bruising backs against Brush, which plays a similar style as BHS, with a focus on running the ball and being physical. Frerichs called it a “true 10-7 matchup” that is essentially a coin flip on paper, while Webb compared Brush to Western Slope League rival Rifle and hopes the Longhorns’ dedication in the film room will pay off on Saturday.
“The more film that we watch, the better that we get,” Webb said. “Against Aspen we watched a lot of film. We had a whole day dedicated to watching film, so we were ready for that game. I think the guys are definitely realizing film is going to be a huge part of this game.”
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Cory Parker once roamed the halls of Aspen High School as a student, graduating in 2008 as one of the best basketball players in program history. For the past five seasons, since returning home, he’s helped rebuild AHS basketball as an assistant coach alongside Alex Schrempf.