Basalt football hosts Rifle in big 1 vs. 2 showdown, Aspen home vs Montezuma
After opening the season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Basalt High School football team dropped to No. 2 behind Rifle despite an easy Week 1 victory. A week later, after both teams easily moved to 2-0, the Longhorns again jumped over the Bears in the CHSAANow.com rankings.
This week, instead of letting the voters decide who deserves that top spot, Basalt and Rifle will settle it themselves when the teams match up Saturday afternoon on the BHS field.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Spectating in the Roaring Fork Valley remains limited due to COVID-19 safety.
“Definitely 1 vs. 2 is going to be exciting for both schools and both teams. It’s a gigantic game,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “We’ve always respected their program to the highest level. We make our kids watch clips of things those kids do, just because of how well they execute.”
Top-ranked Basalt (2-0) has recorded wins over Salida (55-0 on March 20) and Steamboat Springs (34-14 on March 27) so far this season, while No. 2 Rifle (2-0) cruised by Coal Ridge (49-0) and Aspen (56-14).
With the new classification and league arrangement for the spring season, dubbed Season C, all games are against league opponents and only six regular-season games will be played. Meaning, the pandemic-delayed season will be halfway over after this weekend.
So, the outcome between Basalt and Rifle on Saturday should go a long way in determining the league title and possibly the top overall seed in what is expected to be an eight-team playoff bracket.
“Every year that our kids continue to have success and battle, I think it grows their confidence that they know if we play with intensity and play smart football that we really can compete with anyone,” Frerichs said. “But we have to have that intensity and play smart to be in any of these games with these upper-echelon teams.”
Rifle has long been one of those upper-echelon teams on the Western Slope, with three state championships to its name, the last coming in 2004.
The last time the two teams played was Nov. 16, 2019 — technically last season — a wild 21-14 double overtime home win for Basalt in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. The victory sent the Longhorns into the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual runner-up Delta. The Panthers opted for the fall season this year and are not playing this spring.
Rifle and Basalt also played in the regular season last season, on Oct. 25, 2019, a 21-9 win for the Bears. Frerichs wouldn’t go as far as calling it a rivalry quite yet, but it’s reaching that level considering the big games the teams keep playing.
Rifle does have a new coach this year after a surprising resignation by Damon Wells at the end of last season. He was replaced by Todd Casebier, who has coached at multiple stops in Colorado, most recently at Castle View High School. The Bears don’t run the same wing-T offensive system under Casebier, but their philosophy remains much the same as it’s been.
“It’s smash mouth, inside run, outside run with some boot passes. So different schemes, but the same idea of what they are really trying to accomplish,” said Frerichs, who was less certain of Rifle’s defensive approach under the new staff. “They’ve ran two totally different defenses the first two weeks. So they probably have the advantage with us not knowing for sure whether they are going to be in what front.”
Skiers finally at home, face Montezuma-Cortez
After a difficult start to the season, the Aspen High School football team is likely looking forward to its home opener Friday night (6 p.m. kickoff) against No. 8 Montezuma-Cortez. It will be a rare spread vs. spread offensive show.
“I would argue the toughest two starts you could have had outside of putting Basalt in there,” AHS coach Travis Benson said. “We are playing a good football team. A team we measure up and match up well against. But at the end of the day it’s who shows up Friday night and does all the fundamentals correctly and executes on all three phases of the game.”
Aspen (0-2) opened up with a loss at Glenwood Springs (41-14 on March 19) — a team that usually plays a classification higher than AHS — and at Rifle (56-14 on March 26). Montezuma-Cortez is 1-1 after beating Steamboat Springs in the opener, 12-3, and losing to Glenwood Springs last week, 27-12.
The teams have not played since opening the season with a non-league game on Aug. 28, 2015, a 29-12 win for the Skiers over the visiting Panthers.
Despite the 0-2 start this season, Benson sees the bright side with such a young roster. After falling down early to Rifle last week, Aspen did compete with the Bears for a while in the first half, but couldn’t maintain that play after the halftime break.
“We saw it. We started clicking about the second quarter and the belief started building. It’s a young group and it takes some of those plays,” Benson said. “You never want to look forward. It’s four solid seniors we lose, but it’s a team that is basically built around them that are all sophomores and juniors. It gives you a lot of optimism down the road. It gives these young guys not only an opportunity to learn from those quality seniors, but an opportunity to get some varsity playing time.”
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Basalt volleyball improved to 8-4 overall after a 3-0 sweep of Grand Valley on Saturday. BHS, which started the season 0-3, had won seven straight before a 3-2 loss to Cedaredge on Friday. The Longhorns next play Tuesday in Aspen.