In the eyes of the many, including the algorithm that decides playoff seeding, Basalt football had tons to prove entering its first-round playoff matchup Saturday.
The Longhorns, despite an undefeated season, saw their 2A state seeding slip to seventh. The classification’s other undefeated team, Delta, sat in the pole position. But after another walloping of No. 10 Woodland Park, it’s a validation that these Longhorns belong among the discussion at the top, including their next opponent, No. 2 Eaton, the two-time defending state champion.
“We’ve had a chip on our shoulder the whole season,” senior Ben Limongelli said. “We weren’t really surprised by this [win]. We knew that they’d be a good team — but we knew we’re a good team as well, and now we’re going to get ready for next week.”
Basalt was challenged on both sides of the ball more than they had been during most of the season, but still eclipsed 40 points for the sixth time through their 10th game this season. Defensively, the first stringers took some time to settle in but made the plays they needed to.
After going blow-for-blow with Basalt into the second quarter, the Panthers slowly marched down the field in the second quarter before the Basalt defense had its defining moment. From first and goal inside the five, the Longhorns stuffed four running attempts, wasting more than eight minutes of Woodland Park offense and maintaining a 10-point advantage heading into the half.
The Panthers wouldn’t score again until a field goal late in the third quarter and wouldn’t score a touchdown again on the first-team defense.
“We read their guards. We did what we were supposed to do. All we had to do was execute it,” senior Luke Rapoport said.
On both sides of the ball, Basalt had to overcome the loss of senior Trevin Beckman, who went down with a leg injury in the regular season finale at Aspen and was seen on crutches and in a medical boot in the playoff game. On defense, it meant Noah Johnston stepping into the middle linebacker role. According to Basalt stat keepers, Johnston had 10 assisted tackles and seven solo stepping in. Limongelli had five solo tackles, four assisted, two sacks, two fumbles caused and one fumble recovered. Rapoport had his first varsity interception moving from defensive end to outside linebacker.
On offense, it meant a heavier reliance on fellow running back Cooper Crawford — one of the top scoring rushers in 2A all season — on the ground and a bigger passing game, something the team had already planned on to surprise Woodland Park and counter their game plan.
It also showed future opponents that Basalt can carry a balanced offense and put the ball in the end zone in the air or on the ground.
“For me — and I know our receivers feel the same way — we love that,” quarterback Kade Schneider said. “We never pass that much in-game, but it was awesome. To have Cooper as basically a backup plan and have him fresh all game is even better. … I think it opens up our playbook a ton and I think it makes it harder for teams to game plan for us.”
Schneider passed for 290 yards, throwing two touchdowns to Dylan Madden and Luke Rapaport and rushing one in on his own. Crawford scored twice on the ground and Johnston added a long rushing touchdown of his own to round out the team’s six touchdowns.
Will Keating kicked a field goal in the first quarter to get on the board and went 6-for-6 on point after attempts.
It resulted in Basalt’s first playoff victory since 2019, according to MaxPreps.
For the Longhorns, it means just one more week of football, getting ready to travel to Eaton on Saturday, who went 8-1 in the regular season and swept their league play. They ran through No. 15 Bennett 59-14 in their first round matchup.
Rapoport said that while the Longhorns didn’t want to get ahead of themselves in their matchup against Woodland Park, some of the players have already watched some film on Eaton in preparation. Head coach Carl Frerichs hasn’t started watching film yet, but he already had some idea of what the team will look like in the aftermath of Basalt’s first playoff win.
“I just know what they graduated and I know they graduated some key pieces,” Frerichs said. “I really, truly believe our kids want it. They’re going to be right there for it.”
Frerichs noted that the Longhorns met Brush in the first round of last year’s playoffs, saying he believes the team could’ve played better. Brush went on to fall to Eaton in the state championship, 26-14, giving them “a run for their money,” as Frerichs put it.
As expected as the win over Woodland Park was, however, the Longhorns still got some unexpected news: the potential of playing at home one more time this season. Until the state championship, the higher seed hosts. With both No. 11 Montezuma-Cortez and No. 14 Rifle upsetting their higher-seed opponents in the first round, the winner of Basalt/Eaton is guaranteed to host the semifinal game.
Had all the top seeds won, the Longhorns would be the lowest seed remaining on their side of the bracket, forced to travel to all remaining playoff games. Instead, there’s an opportunity to wear the home purple one more time.
“I think it’s good for the kids to realize — like we get down there — we take care of business. We’ve got an opportunity to have another home game, which I think is huge for our kids,” Frerichs said.
Basalt has already beaten Rifle once this season, 22-7 on Oct. 7.