GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Big does not describe Eagle Valley's 42-28 victory over Glenwood Springs Friday night.
Whopping, huge, gigantic, stunning, wonderful, fabulous, and great all apply. But the more apropos phrase may be "season-changing."
The Devils beat the Demons for the first time since 2005, which leads us to the next point. That year was the last time Eagle Valley made the playoffs, and Friday's win against the Demons officially puts Eagle Valley into the playoff chase.
"We talked this week about how this was the biggest game we've had in five years," Devils coach John Ramunno said. "It's pretty nice. These kids have talked a lot about changing things at the high school. The last three years have been pretty tough. The way you make things change is to turn up the heat. We turned up the heat."
Eagle Valley's offense certainly did that. Nielsen ran for around 240 yards, according to KSKE radio, and three touchdowns. Cody Thurston, filling in for Rick Ramunno (broken hand), nearly hit the century mark. And not to be left out, quarterback Jordon Hudspeth threw two touchdowns.
As always, the offensive line of Andy Armstrong, Joe Felix, Joey Sanchez, Tanner Harris Tyler LaFrambroise and Roberto Cortez must take a bow. John Ramunno also gave his tight ends Ayren Hart and Sam Boyd a lot of credit as well.
The game started with two long drives that took almost all of the first quarter, but no points to show for the effort. Glenwood opened the game with a 13-play drive that resulted in a missed field goal. Eagle Valley answered with an 11-play drive that also ended on downs in Glenwood territory.
Eagle Valley got on the scoreboard first as senior Nielsen crossed the goal line with 10 minutes to play in the second quarter.
After a quick three-and-out by Glenwood, Eagle Valley put together another 11-play drive with Hudspeth connecting on a 10-yard TD pass to Boyd for a 13-7 lead with 4:29 remaining in the first half.
The Demons answered with a nine-play scoring drive. Glenwood senior quarterback Travis Lundin found senior Austin Tribble down the right sideline for a 56-yard reception. Lundin capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run after a nifty inside handoff fake to close the lead to 13-7.
With a little more than a minute remaining in the first half, Eagle Valley took advantage of a short Glenwood kickoff. The Devils went 54 yards in three plays for another score, this time seeing Hudspeth connect with senior Zeke Sandoval, who made a sensational catch in the end zone to make it 21-7.
Glenwood got a big break after Lundin found senior Caiden Sorensen open for a 41-yard completion down the sideline as time ran out, but a personal foul by Eagle Valley gave the Demons one more play with no time on the clock. Lundin hit senior Austin Tribble on a short pass, but Tribble was stopped inches short of the goal line to end the first half.
With the Devils leading, 21-7 at the half, the team understandably got "The Delta Speech." In Week 3, the Devils led those Panthers, 21-6, at the break, only to fall 25-21.
"We talked a lot about Delta," Ramunno said. "We sort of shut it off at halftime. This time we picked it up and scored another 21."
Eagle Valley opened the second half with a 20-play, 92-yard scoring drive that took nearly eight minutes and included four fourth-down conversions. Glenwood answered with one play - a 64-yard TD pass from Lundin to Tribble, the only play the Demons would run in the third quarter, making it 27-14 Eagle Valley.
The Devils' offense ate up the rest of the third with Nielsen scoring his third for a 35-14 Eagle Valley lead.
Again, Glenwood wouldn't quit. This time it took two plays for Lundin to find Tribble again, connecting on a 69-yard TD pass with Tribble breaking tackles along the way.
Glenwood then recovered an onside kick and put together an 11-play drive that stalled on downs at the Eagle Valley 7-yard line.
With just under six minutes to play and a 14-point lead, it looked like the Devils would run the clock down, but instead, attempted a pass that was intercepted, and four plays later, Glenwood scored again to close the gap to seven points with 2:33 to play.
Glenwood couldn't recover another onside kick, and with seconds remaining in the game, Thurston scored on a 2-yard plunge to make the final score 42-28.
The Devils are now tied for second in the 3A Slope with Palisade and Delta. This trio is at 3-1, while Rifle leads the pack at 5-0. (The Bears smacked Palisade, 31-3, on Thursday.)
Eagle Valley has Montezuma-Cortez next week for Homecoming. Then it's at Battle Mountain, home for Palisade and at Rifle. While it's a tough schedule, especially those last two games, the Devils do control their own destiny as far as a league title goes.
Also at 5-1, the Devils are in the running for a wild-card spot. By the way, CHSAA releases its first wild-card standings Monday.
"It's a game you had to have," Ramunno said. "We lost to Delta, and Glenwood beat Delta. We had to get a win. The kids knew that. We've got four more games, and it sure would be nice to run the table."