Basalt hoping tight games go its way in 2010
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Four points defined the Basalt football team’s season in 2009.
Had Roaring Fork not pulled out a three-point win, and had Gunnison not gone for and completed a gutsy two-point conversion to escape with a 27-26 victory in double overtime, the Longhorns would’ve finished above .500. They had to settle for four wins, however.
Head coach Carl Frerichs is hoping similarly tight games will have different outcomes in 2010.
“We’re pretty confident that if we stay healthy and the kids work hard and get better every week that we can compete with and beat anybody,” Frerichs said Wednesday. “Aspen and Olathe are the top of the league. Those two will be the ones we’re looking up to, but I still feel we can compete.”
Frerichs’ optimism stems from the fact that he has 16 of 22 starters returning – including lineman Beto Gamboa and Ish Martinez, as well as dual threats Erick Enriquez and Zach Mobilian, who were All-Conference honorable mentions last fall.
Replacing quarterback Corey Ostrander appeared to be the biggest question heading into camp, but Frerichs is confident Scott Hoffman will make a smooth transition from running back to signal caller.
“He had an awesome summer camp, and we’re excited,” the coach added. “We know he can run, and he’ll definitely be able to throw the ball well.”
Frerichs is hoping Basalt’s team speed will cause problems for opposing defenses. But the season will ultimately rest on the Longhorns’ ability to stay healthy – a concern for all coaches at the 2A level.
“We’re working really hard, but we’re thin on depth,” Frerichs admitted. “If one of our key guys goes down, we’re going to struggle.”
Basalt will look to avoid any major setbacks Friday when they step out of conference to play 3A Glenwood Springs. They will then host Rangely at 7 p.m. in Sept. 10’s homecoming game.
Trying to surmise how the 2010 season will play out has been difficult for Longhorns head coach John McDermott. Unknowns abound after losing the bulk of his squad – 15 players – to graduation.
“I have to wait until all the jigsaw pieces are put together,” McDermott said Tuesday. “Sometimes you find that last piece underneath the couch.”
It’s clear the coach likes the pieces that remain – from senior forwards Sebastian Liuzzi and Santiago Marciani to goalkeeper Scott Riggins, junior sweeper Hector Morales and stopper Jacob Musser, among others.
What the group lacks in size, it more than makes up for in talent, McDermott said.
“We have a bunch of good little players shuffling in. We’re small, but I think we’ll do OK,” he added.
Last year’s senior-laden squad finished 13-4-1, won a 3A Region 3 title and advanced to the state quarterfinals for a sixth consecutive season. There, the sixth-seeded Longhorns struggled to keep pace with third-seeded Denver Christian in a 4-1 loss.
“We were terrible,” McDermott told The Aspen Times after that game. “We were so sluggish. … We just didn’t have it.”
He and his players are looking forward to putting that disappointment behind them. They take the first step today, kicking off the new season at 4 p.m. against visiting Roaring Fork.
Basalt is slated to play five of its first seven games at home.
“We’re rebuilding and have to take each game one at a time … but I have a lot of confidence in these players,” McDermott said. “It’s all about how we put it all together.”
Junior Sutherland had a hunch last season was going to be a struggle.
The head coach lost 16 seniors off a 2008 squad that advanced to the second round of the 3A state playoffs. Just 22 players were in the program – not enough to field both a varsity and junior varsity program.
The result was a largely forgettable season.
“I can’t even remember [our record]. I’ve tried to forget about it,” Sutherland joked Wednesday afternoon.
There is reason for encouragement, however. While undermanned, Aspen was competitive in 2009 – they lost “four or five” games in overtime, Sutherland said. Also, a large group of underclassmen had the chance to gain valuable varsity experience.
The coach hopes the growing pains will pay dividends. The Skiers open the season at 4:30 p.m. today against visiting Grand Valley, then host 4A Glenwood Springs at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“We had a lot of younger kids and a lot of inexperience. We’d lose games in the last couple of minutes by conceding goals and going into overtime and losing,” said Sutherland, who lost just three seniors from last year’s squad.
“Through that experience last year, hopefully [the players] have matured … and we win those games instead of losing them.”
Success in 2010 will rest in part on the shoulders of Will Bloemsma, a dynamic scorer who has missed the bulk of offseason training while dealing with a nagging ankle injury.
While uncertainty surrounds Bloemsma’s return, Sutherland is certain about who his starting goalkeeper will be; senior Jessis Andrade emerged as one of the best keepers in the league last fall.
“He kept us in so many games last year. … I’d definitely put him up there in the top two [in the league] for sure,” the coach added. “We’ll start at the back and work our way forward.”
In Bloemsma’s absence, Sutherland expects big contributions from seniors Colter Birk and McCall Kauss as well as sophomore Alex Ferreira and junior Eric Perez, among others.
Mike Whittlef admits that he had no idea what type of team he was inheriting. But so far, the first-time head coach – the Longhorns’ third in as many seasons – likes what he sees.
“I have some of the hardest workers I’ve seen in a long time,” said Whittlef, a teacher at the Growing Years School who moved from Minnesota to the valley three months ago.
“I’m learning as I go. … I’m really excited and pretty nervous, but I’m ready to go.”
The 25-year-old, who played volleyball at Minnesota State University, Mankato, takes over a team that struggled last year under coach Stephanie Palmer. Further compounding matters, many of the team’s top contributors – and nine players in all – graduated.
Talent remains, however, Whittlef said. He pointed to setter Chantri Knotts, front-line player Annie Wells, and defensive specialist Nancy Hernandez, among others, as players that could provide a lift.
The Longhorns will be tested early. They open the season at 6 p.m. tonight with a match against defending league champion Roaring Fork, which finished 22-3 in 2009 and features one of the state’s top players, reigning Slope player of the year Landon Garvik.
“We’ve got some good middles, a great defense and some girls that can really crush the ball,” Whittlef said. “I’m excited to see the girls in an actual game setting.”
Clay Dahlman’s return to his alma mater did not go as planned last fall, when his inexperienced Skiers struggled through an 0-19 season.
The perpetually upbeat head coach thinks that will only make Aspen stronger as it prepares for 2010, however. The Skiers open Saturday at Olathe, then return home Tuesday night to take on Eagle Valley at 6 p.m.
“We talked a lot about [last season] over the course of the summer, and whether we’d be the same team coming back and having challenges,” Dahlman said Tuesday. “All of sudden, the girls got onto the court … and they really started to change the belief system. … There’s a belief now. That’s a big difference after a year when results weren’t there. Spirits are high.
“They realize they’re more balanced, and there’s more maturity from the younger players who were just sort of rookies in their roles last year.”
The Skiers’ roster includes a group of talented juniors and seniors, and Dahlman expects outside hitter and setter Madison Murdoch to revert to form after a 2009 season that was cut short after she had her appendix removed.
Among those the coach expects to contribute are: Junior Bailey Everhart, one of the hardest hitters in the Western Slope; Shannon Peirce, who set a program record for blocks last fall; Mary Beasley, who has settled into her role as an outside hitter and could prove to be a force on the attack; defensive specialist Allie Garrett and fellow seniors Linsey Dodaro and Ali Kerr.
“We’re definitely going to be solid at the top,” Dahlman said. “This is going to be an exciting team to watch this year. … We want to prove we’re toward the top of the league as far as competition goes.”
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