EDWARDS - As it turns out, that Cope guy can really coach soccer.
In local circles, Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope is pretty well known. With 196 victories in 20 years with the boys' team and 101 wins while in charge of the girls' soccer team since he took over in 2004, it's apparent the guy knows his Xs and Os.
But when you string together 20 in row during a season, people around the state tend to notice.
While the players deservedly picked up some serious hardware Thursday night, Cope got his deserved due as well.
• The 4A Western Slope Coach of the Year
• The Colorado High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) 4A Coach of the Year
• The Colorado High School Coaches Association Coach of the Year
• A nominee for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coach of the year (small public schools division)
Not too bad for a guy who took over a program in the dumper in 1993. In 20 years, the program is a power with 15 consecutive playoff appearances, seven Slope League titles in nine years and, finally, the brass ring, a state title, this fall.
"I thought the biggest moment for me was walking into The Cantina," said Cope of the site at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, where the team and its fans had a postgame victory party after Saturday's title win. "The recognition from the players the parents and the alumni, that has a different feel."
Cope had picked up 4A Slope Coach of the Year in October from his peers in the all-league meeting in October. That's not a huge surprise given that the Huskies rolled their competition. Cope has also won this honor six times already (three times each for the boys and girls).
The bigger surprises came in Sunday's all-state meeting. Steamboat Springs coach Rob Bohlmann, unbeknownst to Cope at the time, had written a letter to soccer coaches of Colorado, summing up Cope's resume with Battle Mountain. (If you're new to Huskies soccer, Cope and Bohlmann are close friends off the pitch, but their teams spend the falls and springs usually battling it out for Slope supremacy.)
That letter, along with Battle Mountain's run, helped the 4A coaches vote for Cope as the 4A CHSCA Coach of the Year.
"I read the letter on my email the next day and that was really gratifying," Cope said.
From there, the coaches take the 3A, 4A and 5A winners of Coach of the Year, and vote for one statewide. Thus, Cope is your CHSCA Coach of the Year in Colorado and his name gets forwarded on a national level for more honors.
Cope's first reaction to copious honors like these is to thank more people than an Oscar winner. So here goes. First and foremost is family. That would be his beloved, Kathleen, with whom he has been married since 1994, and his two children, Emily, 14, and Casey, 11. (By the way, Casey's turning 12 next week, so many happy returns, kiddo.)
There is his coaching staff as well: Kyle Mercer, Alfredo Velazquez and Scott Canepa. And, of course, the players present and past.
And probably, the Hollywood Foreign Press as well.
However, as much as any coach is as good as his or her players, there can be no doubting Cope's ability as a coach. His players will talk for him.
"Classic Cope is a very stoic look," Huskies defender Gunnar Wilson said. "You look over (to the sideline) and you know he's analyzing everything down to the littlest detail. There are millions of things going on in his brain. Sometimes, you'd like to get in there and figure out what he's thinking."
"He's obviously a fantastic coach," Battle Mountain's Joe LyBarger said. "He's always positive. He gives positive reinforcement. He rarely gives negative feedback. That's Kyle's job. He's always prepared for every training session and every game. He knows what he wants and when he wants it."
As both Wilson and LyBarger said, Cope tends to prepare for every possibility. One shining example of this is that every practice before a playoff game has ended with a penalty-kick drill, dating back to 1998. The Huskies never faced a shootout after overtime until the quarterfinals this year at Evergreen, and then the finals Saturday vs. Palmer Ridge.
Goalie Christian Espinoza's saves deservedly will go down as legend. But don't forget, the Huskies were 8-for-9 on PKs during this run. (Roberto Diaz's miss was simply bad luck. It was on target.) It's a small preparation aspect, but it loomed large this season.
Through the years, Cope has adjusted to his teams and 2012 was no exception. With only two starters graduating from a team that went 14-2-2 and fell in the quarterfinals, the coach knew he had a talented crew.
Cope still found a way to keep his charges hungry.
"He knew that if he said we were not good, we'd know he'd be lying," Wilson said. "He used it as a positive note, that there have been other good teams at Battle Mountain. He always said, 'We don't want to be a good team. We want to be a great team.' Whenever we thought we were pretty hot, Cope just kept saying that we haven't done anything yet."
Now, they have, thanks in part to their coach.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.