Second-half surge propels Basalt |

Second-half surge propels Basalt

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT ” One assistant coach joked Friday that if Basalt kept its losing streak in tact, the entire staff should consider taking up water polo instead of football.

Those plans can be put on hold for now.

The Longhorns erased an early seven point deficit Friday against visiting Coal Ridge, senior Taylor Foreman-Niko recovered two fumbles and Taylor Mills picked off two Keenen Grumley passes. While its defense shut down a Titans attack that averaged 24 points in their previous four games, the Basalt offense took control, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 28-13 victory ” the team’s first home win and first league win of the season.

Finally, an outcome worth celebrating.

“It feels good to get a win, especially because it’s at home,” Foreman-Niko said. “We usually lose momentum in the second half. I don’t know, sometimes it just clicks.”

Coal Ridge pushed the ball deep in Basalt’s territory right before halftime and appeared poised to build on its 13-6 lead. With his team lined up at the Longhorns’ 34-yard line, Grumley spiked the ball to stop the clock with 10 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, he lofted the ball in the direction of Alex Klein but overshot the 6-foot-8 wide receiver. Mills intercepted the pass to quell the threat and preserve a manageable one-posession deficit.

“That definitely swung momentum back to their side,” Coal Ridge head coach Scott Parker said.

Basalt (3-4 overall, 1-3 2A Western Slope) opened the second half with the ball and wasted little time taking its first lead. Dalton Jacobson dove in for the 1-yard score to cap a 11-play, 70 yard drive that took more than four minutes. Buck converted the extra point to put Basalt ahead, 14-13.

Opportunistic defense and special teams helped the Longhorns maintain momentum. Foreman-Niko recovered a fumble on a third and 12 on the ensuing Titans possession. While the Basalt offense couldn’t capitalize on the good field position ” Cody Kosinski was wide open but dropped a pass on a fake punt attempt ” the defense stood tall once more, forcing a three and out.

Buck tried to pick up a third and 6 with a scramble up the left side in the waning seconds of the third quarter, but gained just one yard. No matter. One play later, a Coal Ridge player muffed the punt return and he pounced on the ball at the Titans’ 10.

Three plays later, Buck executed a perfect play-action pass, finding senior tight end Luke Diekman for the 11-yard score to stretch the lead to 21-13.

“We’ve had some second halves get away from us, but I don’t think it’s because we weren’t ready to play,” Longhorns head coach Carl Frerichs said. “Every game we were right there, we just had something go against us like a turnover. Tonight it went our way.”

Foreman-Niko corralled another fumble with 7:30 remaining in the fourth, setting up the Basalt offense at the Coal Ridge 28. Jacobson slipped a tackle on a first-and-goal from the 8 four plays later and plunged into the end zone.

Jacobson finished with 98 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Backfield mate Kosinski piled up 78 yards and scored once. His 1-yard run early in the second quarter tied the game at seven and capped a 15-play, 68-yard drive.

The Titans (4-3, 1-3) took advantage of Basalt’s lone major gaffe to score on the game’s first possession. They were forced to punt on a fourth-and-21, but were given a second chance when Cory Ostrander mishandled the ball at his own 35. Coal Ridge running back Bradey Gasaway shook free on a draw up the right side three plays later, scampering 30 yards for the score.

Gasaway, who missed the previous two games with an injured shoulder, outran the Longhorns defense for a 55-yard score early in the second quarter.

“I was pretty confident. Our offense has been able to put points on the board all year,” Parker said. “We just didn’t execute in the second half. We’ve been able to overcome the mistakes in the past. Tonight we couldn’t.”

Basalt’s defense also contributed to Parker’s frustrations. The Titans picked up just 17 yards in their first three possessions in the second half.

A promising drive with less than four minutes to play was derailed on fourth down when Grumley’s pass bounced off Klein’s fingertips and into Mills’ hands.

After converting on two third downs with runs of 11 and 12 yards on the ensuing drive, Buck was able to take a knee.

It was a welcome sight for the home sideline.

“Coach told us we had to finish ” we usually start good but struggle in the second half,” Foreman-Niko said. “Tonight we played a complete game.”

“We were about to go a full month without a win,” said Frerichs, whose team had last won Sept. 12 at Paonia. “It feels good. I think it will give the kids more confidence.”

The Longhorns next play at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in Cedaredge.

In other action Friday, the Skiers dropped their second straight league game with a 36-7 loss at Olathe. Coach Mike Sirko could not be reached for comment.

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