Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Football power rankings going into Class 2A WSL play
The high school football season is about to get much more interesting with the start of Class 2A Western Slope League play this week. Basalt (4-0) and Aspen (3-1) have looked strong in non-league, but the next five games will test the mettle of each as they both hope to return to the state playoffs.
Basalt, the two-time reigning WSL champs, opens league play Saturday afternoon at Moffat County (2-2). Aspen heads to Delta (3-1) on Friday night. This is a good time to remind everyone that the 2A WSL landscape is much different from the past two seasons. Gone are Steamboat Springs and Roaring Fork and in are Delta and Rifle, two of the strongest programs year in and year out this side of the Rockies. So, to get ready for what should be quite the battle for WSL supremacy, here are my power rankings as we go into the first week of league play.
1. Rifle (4-0)
Ranked No. 4 in Class 2A this week by CHSAANow.com and currently No. 6 in RPI, this is the team everyone is chasing. The Bears have been nothing short of a powerhouse under longtime coach Damon Wells, including double-digit wins in three of four years from 2011-14.
Rifle went 9-3 a season ago in Class 3A, and so far has barely been tested this fall. The Bears’ best win is arguably last week’s 27-14 victory over rival Glenwood Springs, although the Demons don’t look overly intimidating this season. Rifle senior Tanner Vines is the real deal, having rushed for 567 yards and six touchdowns through the first three games (the Glenwood stats weren’t yet added to MaxPreps).
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2. Basalt (4-0)
Ranked No. 6 this week and with an RPI of 3, the two-time league champs are still that until someone takes the crown away. If defense wins championships, then count the Longhorns a contender. Through four games, BHS had given up only six points to Battle Mountain, a 47-6 rout. The team has shut out Olathe, Pagosa Springs and Paonia.
Beating Rifle will be everything for Basalt. The teams play Oct. 19 in Rifle, the second-to-last game of the regular season. They are not strangers, having played a non-league game each of the past two seasons. Rifle won 48-34 in 2016 and 34-14 in 2017. However, both those games were in the season-opener for Basalt, so maybe seeing the Bears later in the season will be beneficial for the reigning champs.
3. Aspen (3-1)
Admittedly, Aspen is playing much better than expected. The Skiers sit just outside the top 10 and have an RPI of 14. Their only loss came at defending state champion Bayfield, currently No. 3 in 2A.
Take out that 20-8 Bayfield loss where the only points came on defense, and the AHS offense is once again looking like a juggernaut. AHS put up 38 on Meeker in the season opener, 48 on Cedaredge in its home opener, and ran over Grand Valley 54-16 last week. Keep this up, and the Skiers could be a surprise contender for the WSL crown. Aspen plays at Rifle on Oct. 12 and closes out the regular season Oct. 26 in Basalt.
4. Delta (3-1)
The other 2A WSL newcomer, the Panthers don’t quite feel like the team that won no less than eight games each year from 2012 to 2016, which included a 12-2 campaign in 2015. The 2017 season was certainly a major disappointment for the proud program, going only 4-5 overall.
However, sleeping on the 2018 team would probably be a mistake. They sit just a spot outside the top 10 in 2A and are No. 9 in RPI. The Panthers’ only loss came 28-22 at Salida in Game 2. The Spartans are currently 5-0 and No. 7 in the state. I don’t want to make too much out of the first league game, but Friday’s matchup between Aspen and Delta is an elimination game of sorts in the WSL race.
5. Moffat County (2-2)
As competitive as the first four teams in the WSL are, I feel there is a bit of separation with the bottom two. The Bulldogs are never an easy out, but they did just lose their past two games to Battle Mountain (36-14) and Pagosa Springs (49-20), two teams Basalt ran over. Meaning, anything less than a Basalt blowout on Saturday in Craig would be an upset.
Still, this is a Moffat County football program with a proud tradition. They have a first-year coach in Jamie Nelson who is still getting situated. The Bulldogs finished only 4-5 a season ago after going 5-4 in 2016. They last made the playoffs in 2015.
6. Coal Ridge (1-3)
Another team with a first-year coach (Paul Downing), the Titans have their work cut out for them. They were a feisty bunch in their one and only season under Bob Frederickson in 2017, going 5-4 after a 1-8 season in 2016. However, getting past one win this fall looks challenging.
Coal Ridge has played some of 1A’s tougher teams in non-league, its only win a 45-7 rout of Hotchkiss. Losses came against Meeker, Paonia and Olathe. The Titans are certainly missing graduate Jacx Powers, an absolute animal who rushed for 1,601 yards as a senior a year ago.
Now, about those other sports…
— How about a quick nod to Aspen volleyball, which went 5-2 at a tournament in Phoenix over the weekend. They were the only team from Colorado and finished fifth in their division. Now 8-2 overall, the Skiers will play Thursday (Sept. 27) at Delta (9-3 overall) in a critical early-season league game. Aspen then plays this weekend at another tournament, this one hosted by Battle Mountain.
— If you’re into key league games, Tuesday’s (Sept. 25) doubleheader between Basalt softball (9-3-1) and Delta (15-2) is huge. Actually, it’s basically for the league championship. Delta is 8-0 in league play and Basalt is 5-1-1 with the regular-season wrapping up in early October. The teams split their two games (not played on the same day) last season, finishing in a tie for second behind Meeker in the league. Meeker is pretty well locked into the No. 3 spot this season. Tuesday’s doubleheader between the Longhorns and Panthers is in Basalt, with game times scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m.
— Keep Saturday night open, as Aspen soccer (2-4) will host Basalt (2-5) at 6 p.m. under the lights on the AHS turf. This game never disappoints, even with both teams struggling to find wins this season. The Skiers first play Tuesday at Moffat County, which they should win, while Basalt is at Coal Ridge Tuesday in a bit of a must win for both teams.
— Oh, and in case you forgot, the Aspen boys golf team is headed to the state tournament early next week (Oct. 1 and 2) in Boulder. But more on that later.
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Somewhat vanilla on the outside, relying on a heavy dose of the power run, the Basalt High School football team’s offense has always had its share of wrinkles under coach Carl Frerichs. The latest involves the twitchy arm of junior Kade Schneider, who is in his first season as the Longhorns’ QB1.