Gillis getting it done for undefeated Longhorns; AHS playoff hopes on line
Between Miles Levy and Trevor Reuss, the Basalt High School football team had some pretty solid quarterback play over the past three-plus years, a run that included a pair of league titles and multiple playoff appearances.
Next up is junior Matty Gillis, who has stepped into the starting role this fall. So far, it’s been business as usual for the undefeated Longhorns.
“I’ve learned a lot since the first game. I’ve calmed down a lot and we’ve really come together as a team,” said Gillis, whose first career start at QB came in the Sept. 6 season opener at Olathe, a 29-7 win. “I’ve been surrounded by a lot of very good quarterbacks and coaches, so I didn’t feel that nervous before that game. I felt pretty confident. It was just getting the snaps in and getting the reps.”
Gillis has guided the Class 2A Longhorns to a 5-0 record and No. 7 ranking in this week’s CHSAANow.com coaches/media poll. More importantly, Basalt is holding down the No. 1 spot in this week’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI), the mathematically derived number that will ultimately determine postseason seeding.
With Basalt’s run-first approach and usually stifling defense, quarterbacks don’t typically put up flashy numbers under longtime head coach Carl Frerichs. What are important are leadership, toughness and a lack of mistakes, all attributes Gillis has shown on a weekly basis.
“He’s really stepped into the role. He’s been a great leader and he’s shown up,” Basalt senior tight end/linebacker Tristan Johnston said of Gillis. “We started the season arguing a little bit and it was tough, but as the season has gone on everyone has come together and we figured it out. We have a lot of leaders on the offense who are ready to step up and teach other kids.”
Through five games this season, Gillis is completing just over 50 percent of his passes for 656 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception, according to MaxPreps. He’s also third on the team with 133 yards rushing and three more scores. Sophomores Cole Dombrowski (282 yards, 3 TDs) and Gavin Webb (214 yards, 8 TDs) lead the team’s rushing offense.
Gillis is aided by a strong receiving unit, highlighted by senior Jackson Rapaport, who easily leads the team with 30 catches for 394 yards and all five of the team’s receiving touchdowns.
Frerichs said Gillis spent a lot of time at camps over the summer and has even worked with former Colorado State University standout Justin Holland and the Jenkins Elite development program.
“Matty has done everything you can ask of a high school kid to make himself be the best player he can be and he’s really come a long ways,” Frerichs said. “It’s kind of that perfect combination of Matty has worked his tail off but then we also have a really good class of receivers.”
Basalt is in line to make the 2A state playoffs for the fourth straight season. BHS, which opened Western Slope League play with a 49-7 rout of previously undefeated Moffat County last week, travels to Coal Ridge (1-4, 0-1) on Friday night. The Titans lost 44-0 to top-ranked Rifle in their WSL opener a week ago.
The schedule will ramp up in a hurry for the Longhorns after this week, with a trip to No. 2-ranked Delta (5-0, 1-0) on tap next Friday, before hosting Rifle on Oct. 25 for senior night. BHS finishes the regular season with a Nov. 1 trip to Aspen.
“It’s just having the experience and having better composure, being more calm and being more confident about everything,” Gillis said. “All the outsiders were thinking this was going to be a rebuilding season and we use that as a chip on our shoulder and we want to prove everybody wrong and for the most part we have been. It’s just been everyone putting in hard work, putting in time outside of football in the weight room and everything. That’s made us successful.”
ASPEN HEADS TO MOFFAT on Friday WITH A LOT ON THE LINE
In some way, the playoffs have come early for the Aspen High School football team. At 2-3 overall and 0-1 in WSL play, coach Travis Benson knows the Skiers don’t have much room for error when it comes to their postseason dreams.
“It’s an important week for us. It might be one of the most important weeks for this football team and our aspirations for playing past the regular season,” Benson said. “Once you get into conference play you basically play a double elimination tournament to get into the playoffs. You can lose once, but you can’t lose twice to get a guaranteed spot in my opinion.”
Aspen is No. 26 in RPI this week, the lowest-ranked team in the 2A WSL. Coal Ridge is No. 25, Delta No. 7, Rifle No. 6, Moffat County No. 3 and Basalt No. 1. It’s hard to argue against the league being the best in 2A based off those numbers, but at some point it will come down to winning games for the Skiers.
AHS opened league play last week with a 27-14 home loss to Delta, which entered that contest having outscored its opponents 201-0 over its first four games. Aspen’s defense stood out, holding a dangerous run offense to only 80 yards on the ground, but did allow 202 yards passing on only 11 completions. The Aspen offense finally got the ball moving in the second half, but a 21-0 halftime deficit proved too much against the Panthers.
“Minus the outliers of probably three plays in that football game, I’m very proud of the way the kids played,” Benson said of the Delta game. “Our defensive interior guys did a phenomenal job of stopping the run. They keep getting better every week.”
Aspen travels to Moffat County (4-1, 0-1) on Friday, which has turned into somewhat of a must-win for both teams. It’s only the second of three road games this season for the Skiers, who also travel to Coal Ridge on Oct. 25. Aspen hosts Rifle next week and closes out the regular season at home against Basalt on Nov. 1.
“Moffat is still a good football team,” Benson said of the Bulldogs despite their loss to BHS last week. “I would say pretty much the entire conference has a lot to be proud of and Moffat, if you are not prepared, Moffat definitely has the kids and the fight to take it to you.”
The highlight of Friday’s 2A WSL lineup is No. 1 Rifle hosting No. 2 Delta for league and state supremacy.
Note: Aspen’s peewee football teams will host Rifle on Saturday. The third/fourth-grade team plays at 10 a.m., while the fifth/sixth-grade team plays at noon. Both games are played on the school district’s turf field. The teams are sponsored by Aspen Elks Lodge No. 224.
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The winter prep season is upon us. But before we look toward this year, let’s flashback to last winter and recap what happened between the Aspen and Basalt teams. The 2020-21 winter seasons were overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, with shortened schedules and cancellations.