Western Slope League play begins for Aspen, Basalt high school football
As the reigning Class 2A Western Slope League champions, the Basalt High School football team remains atop the pedestal with WSL play beginning this week. Who Basalt’s top challenger will be could be decided Friday when Aspen and Coal Ridge battle it out in New Castle at 7 p.m.
“To get into some games that are going to make a difference on going to the playoffs or not, that’s exciting,” AHS junior Trey Thorpe said. “The team that comes up after them could have a chance, and it’s either going to be us or Coal Ridge. And I think which ever one of us can prove ourselves this week might be able to stand our own against Basalt.”
While Aspen (4-0) enters league play with the best record, Basalt still commands the most respect. At 3-1, the Longhorns are ranked No. 10 by CHSAANow.com in 2A, with AHS and Coal Ridge (3-1) both receiving votes to be ranked. Basalt’s lone loss came in zero week, a 34-14 loss at Class 3A powerhouse Rifle (currently 3-1).
Since then, BHS has tallied home wins over Grand Valley (44-0), Delta (35-7, then ranked No. 6 in 2A) and Battle Mountain (41-33). Basalt opens WSL play Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Steamboat Springs (0-4). The Sailors lost 34-9 to Battle Mountain on Aug. 25 in their only game against a mutual opponent so far.
“They know how important this game is,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said of the league opener. “It’s not like every one is a playoff game, but every one is extremely important and the kids realize how important Saturday is because if you don’t take care of business, you get yourself in a hole really fast.”
The most important number for any team remains the ratings percentage index (RPI), a mathematically generated number based off a team’s record, winning percentage, opponent’s winning percentage, and opponent’s opponent’s winning percentage. A team’s RPI will go a long way in determining playoff teams and seeds, and so far the 2A WSL is holding its own.
At No. 4 in 2A, Coal Ridge holds down the best RPI ranking among WSL teams entering the first week of league play. Undefeated Aspen is No. 8, while Basalt is No. 12. Rounding out the rankings in the six-team league are Moffat County (1-3 overall, RPI No. 36), Roaring Fork (0-4, No. 40) and Steamboat Springs (No. 41). There are 42 teams in Class 2A.
“I think that Coal Ridge-Aspen game is a huge game this week,” Frerichs said. “We got a lot of teams playing really well right now and to have three teams in the top 15 of the RPI really shows where the league is right now, which makes it really exciting for league play coming up.”
While Basalt looks to be a heavy favorite against Steamboat, and Moffat County is the expected frontrunner against visiting Roaring Fork Friday, the Aspen-Coal Ridge matchup is the week’s wildcard.
Aspen, coming off back-to-back 2-7 seasons, is 4-0 for the first time since the 2010 season, when it started 7-0 and finished 9-3 overall. Coal Ridge hasn’t won more than four games since going 7-4 in 2010, and only has four combined wins the past two seasons. A victory over Aspen Friday would be No. 4 this fall alone.
“We are back to a level playing field. It doesn’t matter about records anymore,” second-year AHS coach Karson Pike said of starting league play. “Obviously both teams are playing well with executing their offense and defense. It’s a great way to start league and get a feel for where we are as far as conference will go. It’s a good measuring stick for us overall.”
Aspen and Coal Ridge should make for an interesting matchup considering their different offensive approaches. The Titans, under first-year coach Bob Frederickson, employs a physical, run-first attack, using their generous size.
The Skiers, often much smaller in stature, like to spread the ball around and use their speed to grind teams down.
Aspen’s offense has barely been slowed this season, which started with an 80-50 win over Middle Park. Since, the Skiers have recorded road wins over Arvada (44-0), Cedaredge (40-0) and Grand Valley (30-26).
Coal Ridge opened its season with a 30-7 loss at Meeker, which is currently 4-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 1A by the voters and No. 1 in RPI. Since that loss, Coal Ridge beat Hotchkiss (26-14), Battle Mountain (31-14) and Olathe (57-26).
“Their game is to wear you out physically. Our game is to wear you out with your cardiovascular endurance. It’s going to come down to who can focus for the 48 minutes,” Pike said of Coal Ridge. “It will be an interesting matchup. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a high-scoring affair, just because the two vast differences in offensive style.”
Much of the conference hierarchy will be decided in the first two weeks of play. Coal Ridge plays Moffat County next week, which both Frerichs and Pike believe is a dangerous team despite its 1-3 record. The Bulldogs were WSL league runner-up in 2016 and went undefeated in league play in 2015.
Aspen plays its first home game since the opener next week when it hosts Basalt for homecoming. AHS then plays Roaring Fork and Steamboat Springs before hosting Moffat County in the regular-season finale. Basalt hosts Coal Ridge on Oct. 13, plays at Moffat on Oct. 20 and finishes the season at home against Roaring Fork.
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Chase Kelly, playing at No. 3 singles, won his first three matches before falling to Niwot’s Luke Weber in the final. It was the lone loss of the season for the freshman.