Longhorns will rely heavily on youth
The Basalt Longhorns football program started from scratch four years ago when football came back to the school after a short hiatus.
While the program is stable now, the varsity squad is starting from scratch again this year.
Basalt returns just three seniors, and only one player who has ever posted varsity stats in junior tailback/linebacker Ross Unglert. But a senior-heavy team may be overrated, as the Longhorns went winless last season.
“We will be better than we were last year,” Basalt assistant coach Ryan Shorten said. “We have more talent physically and mentally out on the football field this year.”
“It’s a little bit refreshing,” added head coach Kent Shorten of coaching young players. “But we’re still looking for someone to step up and take hold of the team and be a leader, because with just three seniors we’re lacking leadership a little bit.”
While Shorten is looking to seniors Tyler Whitmire (WR, CB), Dustin Held (OL, DL) and A.J. Summers (OL, LB) for leadership and experience on and off the field, much of the workload will fall to the sophomore class.
Five sophomores will start on each side of the ball, and Shorten hopes the “Super Sophomore Passing Connection” will pay dividends offensively.
Conor Meyer will take the snaps in Basalt’s pro-style offense with sophomore targets Clayton Peetz (RB, FS) and receiver Cody Burkholder, making up the “connection.”
Unglert adds another weapon to the offense and Shorten is “expecting great things” from junior tight end/defensive Adam Gawrys.
In the trenches, Hank Kendall (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) anchors the offensive and defensive lines and sophomore Justin Kovachs (6-3, 190) made the move from tight end to center. Add Held and Summers and the offensive and defensive lines are the biggest in the past three years.
“We’re going to have to rely on the offensive line to give us the opportunity to make that big play,” Shorten said. “We have the skill positions to break those big plays, but it all comes down to the offensive line.”
The Longhorns’ goal is to be the top team in the Roaring Fork Valley. And, with teams like Roaring Fork High School, a favorite to advance to the 2A State Playoffs, Shorten reckons that will translate into a strong season overall.
“We figure if we can be the top dog in the valley we can do well in our conference as well,” Shorten said.
Still, a large part of the success depends on how quickly the young squad develops. It will definitely be a trial by fire.
“We want to see improvement every week,” Shorten said. “We have to see improvement every week.”
Basalt will begin its growth process Friday at 7:30 p.m. when it plays host to Meeker.
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The brackets are set for the 12-team 4A girls lacrosse state championships, and the Roaring Fork Rams are dancing as the No. 9 seed.