Fossil preps for game of the year against rival Fort Collins


Dylan Heinrich

Fossil Ridge prepares for their biggest matchup of the year against Fort Collins high school in a cross town rivalry.

Dylan Heinrich, Sports Editor

For everyone related to high school basketball, one regular season for the Fort Collins area stands above the rest. The day has finally arrived, as the Fossil Ridge (15-1, 8-0) boys basketball team prepares to take on Fort Collins (14-2, 8-0) in a battle of top ten teams. 

Both teams have lived up to their reputation through the first three months, as Fossil is currently ranked second in the CHSAA seeding index just ahead of Collins, who are in seventh. The two schools are the only ones still undefeated in Front Range conference play, two games ahead of the third place teams. Add the factor of city bragging rights on the line, and you get a recipe for a marquee matchup.

“I’ve been thinking about this game since October,” says Matthew Boldt, a Fossil Ridge senior. “It’s definitely something that’s been on everyone’s mind. We all know each other, it’s a top ten matchup in the state. We are both really good, skilled teams. It’s going to be fun, needless to say.”

Boldt attempts to punish opponents by penetrating the lane and drawing contact. (Dylan Heinrich)

Boldt is excited to play in this year’s matchup against the Lambkins, as his recovery from his torn ACL kept him out of the matchup last year. He is a major part of Fossil’s main strength of depth, coming off a career-high 19 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. 

“I’m just another team player,” Boldt says. “Just the extra edge of athleticism, extra rebounds, making the right passes.”

Another key player to watch for the Sabercats is senior forward Nick Randall. Randall comes into the game as Fossil’s leading scorer averaging 22.6 points as well as the leading rebounder with 9.8. 

“I’ve been looking forward to this game all year,” Randall says. “It’s the most fun game every year…I hope there’s going to be a lot of people there and I’m looking forward to it.”

Randall will be matched up with Collins big man Luke Wagstaff, the leading scorer and rebounder for the Lambkins as well. Wagstaff, a fellow senior, is averaging 20.3 points and 10.5 rebounds for Fort Collins. 

The two big men have known each other for quite some time now, making this not only a matchup of skill but one of personal connection.

“I’ve known Luke [Wagstaff] since I moved here,” Randall says. “I’ve played on three different teams with him. We go back a ways, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Randall’s spectacular play early on as led him as one of the favorites for Colorado Player of the Year. (Dylan Heinrich)

The final key comparison will be one of coaching. For Fossil Ridge head coach Matt Johannsen, the matchup against Fort Collins will always be special. Collins was Johannsen’s alma mater, where he spent three years as head coach concluding in a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003. But with the opening of Fossil in 2004, Johannsen was open to the challenge of building a legacy and a culture all of his own.

Now in his 19th season as the Sabercats head coach, Johannsen sits on thirteen consecutive playoff appearances and 314 wins at Fossil, with a total of 353 career wins. 

But Johannsen will have to contend with one of the most storied coaches in Colorado history, Bruce Dick. Dick has been a head coach for over 40 years with four separate schools. He recently reached the 700 win milestone, with a record of 24-16 through his second year with Collins. 

But with all the pomp and circumstance, Johannsen understands the importance of keeping it simple. 

“It’s just another game,” Johannsen says. “I realize that it’s not just another game but we have to treat it like that. We have to go to work, we have to do the little things, not try and do too much.” 

This clash of titans starts at 7:00 p.m. on January 31 at the Fossil Ridge Gymnasium. 

Johannsen speaking with his team during their game against Denver East. (Dylan Heinrich)