The undefeated Longhorns will go on to play the Fighting Reds in Eaton on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. Photo by Elvis Estrada

The Basalt Longhorns took the field on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 5, to face the Woodland Park Panthers with a simple goal: to extend their undefeated record and move on to the next round of the Class 2A playoffs.

With nine victories in nine regular season games, the Longhorns have overcome the challenges of local rivalries, long bus rides and harsh weather to put together one of only two perfect 2A records in the state. On Saturday, they faced two new hurdles: injuries and the jeopardy of playoff football.

Senior quarterback Cade Schneider set the tone early with a series of tidy completions as the Longhorns marched into Panther territory, but Woodland Park’s defense forced the home team to settle for a field goal. Bar a few second half turnovers, it would be the only meaningful defensive stop for the Panthers all afternoon. After a quick three-and-out, Schneider connected with wide receiver Dylan Madden for a 50-yard touchdown pass that gave Basalt an early 10-0 lead. Madden’s catch sent the boisterous home crowd of almost five-hundred Longhorn fans into a purple frenzy.

Basalt’s Dylan Madden hauls in a 50-yard pass over Woodland Park’s Evan Bamesberger for the game’s first touchdown. Photo by Elvis Estrada

On their next drive, Woodland Park’s spread offense caused problems. An injury to linebacker Jamie Dolan left the Longhorns vulnerable, and after a pair of first downs, quarterback Bryce Broeker found an open Griffin King for a touchdown pass that silenced the home crowd.

As the first quarter gave way to the second, neither defense could come up with a stop. For the Panthers, a strong passing game from Broeker and a powerful run option in Aiden Hernandez had the Longhorns backpedaling. Meanwhile, Cade Schneider kept connecting with his receivers, and Cooper Crawford began to assert his dominance on the ground.

With eight minutes to play in the first half, down 24-14, Woodland Park began the defining drive of the afternoon on their own 25 yard line. After four consecutive third down conversions, the Panthers approached the red zone, seemingly poised to reduce the deficit to three points just before halftime.

“We felt like we knew what they were going to do so we gambled a little on that third and goal,” Coach Carl Frerichs later admitted. As the crowd revved itself up to fever pitch, and with only seconds left on the clock, the Longhorns refused to concede any ground. “We got ‘em to fourth down,” chuckled Frerichs, “and sometimes you gotta take your chances.” The Panthers failed to convert and went into halftime down by ten.

Woodland Park had the chance to start the second half with another determined drive, but Luke Rapaport intercepted a long Broeker pass, and a few plays later Cooper Crawford was celebrating another touchdown run and a three possession lead.

The game then took a defensive turn, as Woodland Park’s Evan Bamesberger picked off two Schneider passes, while Basalt’s defense forced two punts before sacking Broeker on fourth down and regaining possession on their own 25 yard line with 2:36 remaining in the game.

On the ensuing drive, junior Noah Johnston broke through and ran 67 yards for a touchdown that put an end to any thoughts of a Panther comeback. Woodland Park scored a quick touchdown against the Longhorn’s second string defense, then recovered an onside kick, but by then it was too little, too late.

Coach Frerichs was justifiably pleased with the way his defense adjusted, and with his team’s offensive output as well. “Coach Peetz and Coach Levy do a great job calling the offense and they’re super aggressive. I don’t think we punted the entire game.”

The 45-24 victory extends the Longhorn’s record to a perfect 10-0 and sets up a quarterfinal showdown with the 9-1 Eaton High Fighting Reds on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. The Reds bulldozed their way to a 59-14 win against the Bennett High Tigers on Saturday, racking up 540 yards of offense along the way.

Frerichs is optimistic that senior Jamie Dolan will be cleared to play next week, and sees the trip to Eaton as an opportunity to prove that the Longhorns’ deserve more respect than their seven-seed status might suggest. “If our kids play hard,” he concluded, “we can play with anyone.”

There was no shortage of spirit in the Longhorn student section. Photo by Elvis Estrada