Football: Aspen, Basalt set to begin league play
Welcome to the high school football season.
Sure, both Aspen (1-3 overall) and Basalt (2-2) have 16 quarters under their belts, but with Class 2A Western Slope League play set to get underway Friday, every team is able to wipe the slate clean.
“When we get into league play, pretty much everyone is zero-zero and feeling hungry,” Basalt football coach Carl Frerichs said. “Those non-conference records don’t mean anything because everyone feels like they are alive right now. I think everyone that opening weekend is going to get every team’s best shot.”
Basalt will open league play at home against Steamboat Springs (0-4), while Aspen will host Coal Ridge (0-4). Both games are Friday at 7 p.m.
Moffat County (1-3) will play at Roaring Fork (0-4) on Friday, rounding out the first week of 2A WSL action.
At least for Aspen and Basalt there is plenty of optimism surrounding their chances at a league title. Considering the six teams are a combined 4-20 and no team has asserted itself as the league frontrunner, it’s anyone’s game as far as earning the automatic playoff berth for winning the 2A WSL crown.
“Anything can happen when you sneak in the playoffs. That’s the emphasis right now,” Aspen football coach Karson Pike said. “We will hopefully take care of Coal Ridge this Friday and start looking forward. We got some big games coming down the pipe.”
Despite a 1-3 record, Aspen hardly looks out of place to make a run at a league crown. The Skiers’ past two games were losses to teams (Cedaredge and Grand Valley) with a combined 7-1 record entering this weekend. The lone win came in the second game, a 16-12 victory against Arvada.
Coal Ridge — a team Pike said is almost a “mirror image” of the Skiers in terms of youth and repetitious small mistakes — has certainly struggled this season. The Titans have not lost a game by less than two possessions through their 0-4 start.
“We are hoping to change that this week with a more even team,” Aspen junior quarterback R.J. Peshek said of correcting their own mistakes against Coal Ridge. “It’s definitely a winnable game. We just got to come out there and be technically sound, be physically sound, and just play better than they do.”
The Aspen and Coal Ridge contest also will be the Donor Dudes football game, put on by the Chris Klug Foundation. The players will wear green socks and the cheerleaders will use green pompoms to help raise awareness for organ and tissue donation.
Basalt’s game against Steamboat Springs is a homecoming, of sorts — its actual homecoming is the following week against Aspen — considering it’s played on the road the past three games. The Longhorns’ only home game so far this season was in the season opener Aug. 26, a 48-34 loss to Rifle.
“We are still hungry. We are still as hungry as we were at the beginning of the season,” Basalt junior lineman Oswaldo Morales said. “As far as our goals go, we take it game by game. We know the league is wide open. We know that anyone can take it.”
Basalt’s 2-2 record makes it the only 2A WSL team sitting at .500 or above entering league play. Both losses came against two perennial powers this side of the Rockies (the other team being Delta). The Longhorns best win came a week ago, when they beat previously unbeaten Battle Mountain, 20-8.
“That was huge because our defense wasn’t going very good stopping the run before that,” Basalt junior running back and linebacker Alex Alberto said. “Battle Mountain was beating every team in our league, and then our defense stepped it up and beat them.”
The Huskies had in fact beaten three 2A WSL teams to start the season — Steamboat Springs (24-7), Roaring Fork (13-7) and Coal Ridge (40-16) — giving Basalt a feeling it deserves to be among the favorites to win the league after beating Battle Mountain.
Steamboat Springs, which moved down to 2A from 3A this season and replaced Battle Mountain, now 3A, in the 2A Western Slope League, has some proving to do before it gets in the WSL picture. The Sailors have only scored 21 points in four losses, with a 24-7 loss at Battle Mountain in their season opener the closest loss.
Moffat County is the defending league champion, having gone 5-0 in WSL play last season, but has struggled through a 1-3 start this season. The Bulldogs were a favorite among media outlets to repeat as league champions this season, and Basalt is fine if the attention stays on the team from Craig.
“We don’t need the attention. We just got to prove ourselves on the field,” Morales said. “Facing Delta and facing Rifle early in the season, we were able to see some of the flaws that were in our defense. Being able to expose those early are huge for us because now heading into league we are ready.”
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