Basalt football hosts Rifle in big 1 vs. 2 showdown; Glenwood home Friday night vs. Coal Ridge
After opening the season ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, the Basalt High School football team dropped to No. 2 behind Rifle despite an easy Week 1 victory. A week later, after both teams easily moved to 2-0, the Longhorns again jumped over the Bears in the CHSAANow.com rankings.
This week, instead of letting the voters decide who deserves that top spot, Basalt and Rifle will settle it themselves when the teams match up Saturday afternoon on the BHS field.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Spectating in the Roaring Fork Valley remains limited due to COVID-19 safety.
“Definitely 1 vs. 2 is going to be exciting for both schools and both teams. It’s a gigantic game,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “We’ve always respected their program to the highest level. We make our kids watch clips of things those kids do, just because of how well they execute.”
Top-ranked Basalt (2-0) has recorded wins over Salida (55-0 on March 20) and Steamboat Springs (34-14 on March 27) so far this season, while No. 2 Rifle (2-0) cruised by Coal Ridge (49-0 on March 19) and Aspen (56-14 on March 26).
With the new classification and league arrangement for the spring season, dubbed Season C, all games are against league opponents and only six regular-season games will be played. Meaning, the pandemic-delayed season will be halfway over after this weekend.
So, the outcome between Basalt and Rifle on Saturday should go a long way in determining the league title and possibly the top overall seed in what is expected to be an eight-team playoff bracket.
“Every year that our kids continue to have success and battle, I think it grows their confidence that they know if we play with intensity and play smart football that we really can compete with anyone,” Frerichs said. “But we have to have that intensity and play smart to be in any of these games with these upper-echelon teams.”
Rifle has long been one of those upper-echelon teams on the Western Slope, with three state championships to its name, the last coming in 2004.
The last time the two teams played was Nov. 16, 2019 — technically last season — a wild 21-14 double overtime home win for Basalt over the top-ranked Bears in the Class 2A state quarterfinals. The victory sent the Longhorns into the state semifinals, where they lost to eventual runner-up Delta. The Panthers opted for the fall season this year and are not playing this spring.
Rifle and Basalt also played in the regular season last season, on Oct. 25, 2019, a 21-9 win for the Bears. Frerichs wouldn’t go as far as calling it a rivalry quite yet, but it’s reaching that level considering the big games the teams keep playing.
Rifle does have a new coach this year after a surprising resignation by Damon Wells at the end of last season. He was replaced by Todd Casebier, who has coached at multiple stops in Colorado, most recently at Castle View High School. The Bears don’t run the same wing-T offensive system under Casebier, but their philosophy remains much the same as it’s been.
“It’s smash mouth, inside run, outside run with some boot passes. So different schemes, but the same idea of what they are really trying to accomplish,” said Frerichs, who was less certain of Rifle’s defensive approach under the new staff. “They’ve ran two totally different defenses the first two weeks. So they probably have the advantage with us not knowing for sure whether they are going to be in what front.”
Demons host Coal Ridge Friday; Roaring Fork hosts first varsity game since 2017
In another game that could prove crucial in the 3A West outcome, Glenwood Springs (also 2-0 and ranked in the top 5 among 3A teams after wins over Aspen and Montezuma-Cortez) hosts Coal Ridge (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Stubler Memorial Field.
The Titans, after going 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the usual 2A Western Slope League in 2019, and following the Rifle loss to open Season C, scored a convincing win over Salida, 29-0, last week.
Saturday’s slate of games this weekend also includes the momentous return of the Roaring Fork Rams (0-2) to their home field in Carbondale at 1 p.m. versus Manitou Springs (1-1).
It’s the first varsity home game for Roaring Fork since the fall 2017 season, after which the Rams (winless that season) suspended their varsity program for two seasons to focus on rebuilding the program.
Now under the direction of first-year head coach Eric Bollock and playing with a roster of just seven upper-classmen and a host of freshmen and sophomores, the Rams are making a go of it in the modified 2A West conference.
Also in that division is Grand Valley High School of Parachute (1-1), which is on the road at Buena Vista (2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
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Local teams just missed out on qualifying for state as teams but will be sending individual representatives following Friday’s regional meets.