Forty years later and Basalt football is finally back in the state semifinals
When Dan Duroux thinks about the 2019 Basalt High School football team, images of his senior season come to mind. After all, the Longhorns haven’t been to the state semifinals in 40 years, when his 1979 team made a run of its own.
“It’s so similar to my senior season in that the two years before should have been the better teams,” the now 57-year-old Duroux said. “Yet these are the guys that took it to the next step, so that’s pretty awesome. They may be overachieving a little bit, which is one of those great things.”
No. 9 seed Basalt (9-2) is set to host No. 4 Delta (10-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Class 2A state semifinals. The winner will face either No. 2 Sterling or No. 3 Resurrection Christian in the state championship game Nov. 30 in Pueblo.
This will be the first 2A semifinal appearance in Basalt’s history. The program’s first 2A playoff win only came in 2017 over Salida, which led to the first of back-to-back quarterfinal losses. Prior to this recent run, Basalt’s football history is fairly bleak and empty, at least until you get back to the 1970s.
That 1979 team is the only other semifinal team in school history. The Longhorns were then playing in Class A, or 1A, and also were enjoying a stretch of football dominance that culminated in those seniors.
“We didn’t know,” said Duane Bair, another senior on the ’79 team who now lives in Utah, of that year’s team rewriting school history. “We used to joke that we may be small, but we’re slow.”
Over their four-year high school careers, the 1980 senior class never lost a league game. According to Duroux, who now lives in South Carolina, BHS won its first playoff game in school history in 1977 and followed it up with a second win in 1978. Both of those seasons ended with second-round playoff losses.
Then came the 1979 squad, coached by Jerry Mohrlang and led by sophomore quarterback Del Goolsby and the two-headed running back attack of Scott Havens and Mike Parker, who Bair claims were the best two backs in the state that season.
Although, it wasn’t all dreamy. Basalt lost to 2A powers Palisade (34-16) and Roaring Fork (27-14) in the first two games of 1979. Still, even after starting 0-2, the Longhorns believed.
“After that game it was like, ‘Wait a minute, this team could be pretty decent.’ We hung with them the whole game and had them on the ropes for a while,” Duroux said of the second game against the Rams. “After that, the next week we hit league play and we went undefeated again through league. Like, our starters, we didn’t see the second half hardly at all. We were just blowing our opponents out every game.”
Basalt beat Platte Canyon in the first round of the playoffs, 31-15, and then beat Haxtun in the state quarterfinals that season, 28-15. Their season ended in the semifinals to powerhouse Limon in a 35-0 rout.
According to coloradopreps.com, Limon has won 17 state championships in school history, including in ’76, ’78 and ’79.
“We had nobody on our team that was close to 200 pounds. Our offensive line was pretty much all in the 160s, maybe 170s. We gelled together as a team and really carried things in when we hit the playoffs,” Duroux said. “Unfortunately we got to draw (Limon) in the semifinals and they got us pretty good.”
Bair said Basalt had about 200 kids in the high school that season. Of the roughly 100 males, 50 went out for the football team, a staggering percentage for a school anywhere. There was a passion for the game that seemed to fade away over the following few decades but it has certainly been revived in full over recent years.
“Looking at it the past four years, it just reminds me so much of when I was there,” Duroux said. “Seeing it come to life like that again, every year they are overcoming things, they are pushing forward. I would love to see this team be able to get past the game that we couldn’t get past. That would be amazing to see Basalt playing for a state championship finally.”
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High school sports are back. At least, things seem to be trending that way. As it stands, what is being dubbed “Season B” can begin practice on Monday, Jan. 18, with competition slated to get underway a week later.