Before Wednesday's state semifinal in Parker, Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope said to me, "We've watched a lot of games to get to this point."
Yes, we have. Yes, this was a coach of 20 years talking to the guy who's covered his team for 16. But it's a very collective "we."
As Battle Mountain plays in today's 4A state title game against Palmer Ridge at 1:30 p.m. at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, just north of Denver, there are more than 20 guys suiting up in Huskies' black, gold and white.
There are legions of parents - past and present - who have stood or sat on the berms of the old soccer pitch in Eagle-Vail (like Jeff Spanel and Claudia Nelson; get well soon, Claudia) to Rev. Rob Wilson, aka Gunnar (and Garrett) Wilson's dad, who has to pace the stands when things get tense.
It's goalies Mark Gulizia, Ryan Souto, Josh Ruark, D.J. Van Curan and Clint Hervert. It's defenders like Harrison Brown, Evie Gonzalez, Connor Drumm, Connor Tedstrom and Cody Hervert. It's Kyle Moore, Tyler Cole (sans shirt) and Erik Garcia at midfield. Strikers? Andy Banner, Mark Perna, Jesse Maddox, Davey DeChant, Jack Sunderland and Scott Ligouri.
There has been a lot building to this moment. Cope still gets excited about winning in Glewnood Springs because his first few teams got clobbered at Stubler. (The first year, 1993, the Huskies lost, 9-0, to the Demons). By the time I got here in 1997, the Huskies beat Eagle Valley, 1-0, for their first win in three years against the Devils. That was a big step, people. (Matt Johnson had the goal, and the game was played on Eagle Valley's baseball diamond.)
I know I sound like a broken record, but there was a time the state playoffs weren't a sure thing. Wanna know why Cope knows every playoff scenario come late October? It's because before the days of maxpreps.com, we were working the phones to gather scores from around the Slope to see if the Huskies could slide into the postseason with a tie against a former league opponents like Basalt, Roaring Fork or the Vail Mountain School.
For the only the second time in Cope's tenure, Battle Mountain made the playoffs on the last day of the season in 1999 with its 10th win of the year - "The VMS Game," as it's known now. Current Huskies goalie Christian Espinoza has 10 shutouts this season.
Yep, we're not in Kansas any more, though we will be about 100 or so miles closer at the home of the Colorado Rapids.
It's pretty simple, guys. Use your athleticism to create from the run of play. Guard the restarts, be they free kicks or throw-ins. (Yes, I saw the board in the locker room in Parker Wednesday.) You're 19-0 and you belong here. (How's the CHSAA seeding looking now? Sorry, too easy.)
Have fun today and know that there are a lot of people behind you.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.