Basalt goes to the air in playoff win over Woodland Park, eyes Eaton in next round
The Aspen Times
Calling it an air raid offense might be a stretch, but the Longhorns had little hesitancy letting Kade Schneider cut loose in the passing game. The senior quarterback led the Basalt High School football team’s offense to a huge afternoon in a 45-24 first-round playoff win Saturday over visiting Woodland Park on the BHS field.
The No. 7-seeded Longhorns advance in the Class 2A bracket to face No. 2 seed Eaton in the second round. No. 10 seed Woodland Park finished the season 6-4 overall.
“It feels great. That’s exactly what we wanted to do. We made some mistakes, obviously, and we can’t afford those next week against Eaton,” Schneider said. “But I’m proud of the whole team and that’s super awesome to get a win.”
BHS, one of 2A’s top running teams behind senior standout Cooper Crawford and the injured Trevin Beckman, went to the air more than usual against the Panthers, although the ground game was just as viable as ever. The Longhorns jumped out to a 10-0 lead, led 24-14 at halftime and were never seriously threatened in the second half.
Saturday’s playoff game was a rematch of last year’s season opener in which Woodland Park came to Basalt and lost, 35-6. The stakes were a bit higher this time around.
“We just keep telling them every week, we are not satisfied, we want to keep going further and further and get another week with each other,” longtime BHS head coach Carl Frerichs said. “When the kids are ready to play, we feel like we can match up with anyone.”
After a methodical opening drive led to only a short Will Keating field goal, BHS soon got the ball back and it was Dylan Madden’s 50-yard touchdown catch — most of it done after the reception — from Schneider that gave the Longhorns the early 10-0 edge.
The Basalt defense was rattled for a bit early on after a few injuries got in the way. Woodland Park cut it to 10-7 after quarterback Bryce Broeker found Griffin King on a 25-yard score, but the BHS offense answered right back, Madden’s 35-yard catch down to near the goal line leading to Schneider’s 1-yard QB sneak and a 17-7 Longhorn lead after the first quarter.
The Panthers cut it to 17-14 early in the second via a 12-yard Aiden Hernandez TD run, but that’s as close as they would get.
“We got a little banged up in the first quarter, so we had guys moving around that put us on our heels a little bit,” Frerichs said of the BHS defense. “But once we settled in, I think we played a lot better.”
Schneider connected with Luke Rapaport on a 15-yard TD pass and catch to make it 24-14 midway through the second quarter. The Panthers put together a long drive — just over eight minutes — to close out the half, but the BHS defense stopped them at the goal line on fourth down to keep it a 10-point game at the halftime break.
After the BHS defense forced a turnover to open the third quarter, Crawford ran the ball in for a quick score and a 31-14 Longhorn lead.
“We planned around what we thought they were going to do. They thought we were probably going to ground and pound with Coop the whole game,” Schneider said of the offensive game plan coming in. “It opens up our playbook a ton and it makes it harder for teams to game plan for us, too, which is great. We are going to need that the whole playoffs. I know Coop is going to keep doing his thing. He is going to keep pounding every week.”
A Woodland Park field goal midway through the third quarter cut it to 31-17, a score that held into the fourth. Schneider did throw a couple of interceptions, but the Panthers were unable to turn either turnover into points. Crawford’s 20-yard TD run with 4:55 to play that made it 38-17 essentially iced the game.
“Coach (Mitch) Levy and Coach (Clayton) Peetz do a great job and I just try and stay out of their way,” Frerichs said of his offensive playcallers. “They do an amazing job out there. They keep teams off balance and they do a good job of watching film. We knew they were going to load the box and you got to pick your poison with us and they chose to load the box, which gave Kade an opportunity to have a huge night.”
The scoring wasn’t quite over at that point, with Basalt’s Noah Johnston rumbling in for a score from 67 yards out with 2:11 to play, and Broeker got another score on a long run for the Panthers not long after to make it 45-24. Woodland Park even got the onside kick, but a turnover right on the goal line gave the ball back to BHS and that was that.
It was Basalt’s first playoff win since a dramatic 21-14 double-overtime thriller over rival Rifle on Nov. 16, 2019. BHS lost in the semifinals a week later to Delta, 17-6.
The Longhorns lost in the opening round of the state playoffs each of the past two seasons, including in the one-off 2021 season played in the spring because of the pandemic, a 27-22 loss to Sand Creek. Last fall, it was a first-round loss to Brush, 43-23, that ended the BHS season at 7-3 overall.
“You never know when you get into these things. That’s what makes it so fun,” Frerichs said. “The most important thing is we get another week of football. We get to have practice on Monday. There are only eight teams left that get to have practice on Monday, so that’s a special, special thing to my kids.”
Despite a perfect 9-0 mark in the regular season, the now 10-0 Longhorns only received the No. 7 seed in this year’s playoff bracket. No. 2 Eaton (9-1) hasn’t lost since falling 19-16 to The Classical Academy in its season opener. TCA is the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and beat Moffat County in the first round. The Eaton Reds are coming off a 59-14 rout of No. 15 Bennett in the first round.
The biggest upset of the first round came with No. 14 Rifle upsetting No. 3 Florence, 14-7. Opposite that, No. 11 Montezuma-Cortez knocked off No. 6 Elizabeth, 21-7, setting up the rare 14 vs. 11 matchup in the second round. The Rifle-Montezuma winner will play either Eaton or Basalt in the semifinals, opening the door for another home game for the Longhorns if they can spring the second-round upset at Eaton.
“Our coaches have been saying it all week, and we feel the same way. We kind of feel like we have been getting a little bit disrespected all season,” Schneider said. “But today we proved we are definitely not the 7 seed. I think as the playoffs go on we will prove we are even higher in the rankings.”
The other half of the 2A bracket includes quarterfinal matchups of No. 1 Delta vs. No. 8 Alamosa, and No. 4 TCA vs. No. 12 University. University knocked off No. 5 The Academy in the first round.
Aspen football finished the regular season 2-7 overall and did not make the postseason.
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