Football: Basalt hangs tough with No. 1 Rifle, Aspen rolls over Coal Ridge

Leading early in the fourth quarter, the Basalt High School defense finally wore down as the top-ranked Rifle football team rallied for a 21-9 win Friday night on the BHS field.

The Longhorns, ranked No. 8 in Class 2A, were trying to bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 35-6 defeat at Delta a week ago. In that contest, BHS fell behind by two scores barely a minute into the game and were never competitive. Against the Bears, it was a different story.

Basalt took its first possession in for a touchdown Friday, sophomore running back Cole Dombrowski scoring from about 6 yards out for a 6-0 lead after a blocked extra point. The Bears did answer, however, with quarterback Holden Stutsman capping off the drive with a 1-yard sneak to take a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.

After that it became a defensive battle, with the 7-6 Rifle advantage holding all the way into the fourth quarter. An interception by the Basalt defense set up the offense inside Rifle’s 10-yard line, but BHS had to settle for a short Carlos Palomares field goal that gave the Longhorns a 9-7 lead with just inside 12 minutes to play.

The remainder of the game belonged to Rifle’s devastating rushing attack. Star tailback Levi Warfel scored only a few minutes later to make it 14-9 in favor of the Bears, and the BHS offense couldn’t get anything going on its next possession. Rifle effectively ran out the clock on its next possession, which ended with a second Warfel touchdown run to put the game out of reach.

With the win, Rifle improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in 2A Western Slope League play. It secured a second straight league title with only Moffat County remaining in the regular season. The Bulldogs lost 52-0 at Delta on Friday.

Basalt fell to 6-2 and 2-2 in WSL play after a second straight loss. The Longhorns close out the regular season next week with a trip to Aspen.

Aspen football crushes Coal Ridge to keep playoff hopes alive

The Aspen High School football team made easy work of Coal Ridge on Friday, winning 54-20 in New Castle to keep its playoff hopes alive for another week.

“We actually executed on both sides — all three phases of the game tonight — very well,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “Defense was grinding. We gave up one long series, but we definitely were playing some physical football tonight. And special teams definitely pulled through.”

The Skiers jumped all over the Titans, with junior quarterback Tyler Ward connecting with senior receiver Jon Haisfield for three touchdowns only midway through the first quarter. Down 20-0, Coal Ridge finally scored via a Damian Spell touchdown run to make it 20-7 early in the second quarter. However, two more touchdowns led to a 34-7 Aspen lead at halftime.

“You could definitely see a little bit of the brightness of last year’s offense on the field tonight,” Benson said. “They played with a lot of confidence, for sure.”

The Skiers got the running clock going in the second half, with Coal Ridge scoring its final points on the final play of the game.

Coal Ridge fell to 1-7 overall and 0-4 in WSL play. The Titans close out their season by hosting Delta next week.

Aspen improved to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in WSL play. The Skiers’ playoff hopes likely come down to a senior day win over Basalt next week, while the Longhorns will look to avoid a three-game skid to end the regular season.

“Playoffs are still alive,” Benson said. “Basalt next week. Little rivalry game, and it actually means something for the both of us.”