GYPSUM - Eagle Valley's John Ramunno coaches a fall sport, but he's excited about the winter seasons of basketball and wrestling.
That's because he's looking forward to see his football players continue their successes as the snow flies.
"I told the guys, 'When you do have success, it's up to you to keep it going,'" Ramunno said. "I think we're going to have a good winter at Eagle Valley."
Fall was pretty darn good. The football team went from 1-8 and near the basement in the Western Slope to 8-4 and one of the last eight teams standing in the state playoffs. That turnaround was reflected as Ramunno handed out all-league honors earlier this week.
Ramunno - and wrestling coach Ron Beard, for that matter - has good reason to be excited about Armstrong when it comes to wrestling. Now a heavyweight, Armstrong finished fifth in the state at 220 pounds last winter. (Ramunno previously did double duty as the school's football and wrestling coach, so he's not a stranger to the mat.)
Armstrong was a tackle on both sides of the ball, but shined particularly offensively.
Ramunno's take: "One game, we were talking at halftime, and I said, 'How are you doing? Who can block their man?' Andy said, 'Go behind me, Coach.' I love that. Andy Armstrong is a physical specimen. ... That's probably one of the best offensive lines I've coached."
Just as Ramunno doesn't drop the phrase "one of the best offensive lines I've coached" too often, he doesn't invoke running-back Sean Matheson much. Nielsen, according to Ramunno, belongs in that company. Nielsen ran for more than 1,500 yards this season, including huge games against Glenwood Springs and Frederick in the playoffs.
Like anyone who watched the Devils this season, Ramunno enjoyed watching Nielsen seemingly getting tackled over and over, only to see him keep the play going.
Ramunno's take: "That's what he did the best, his second effort. I'm calling in the next play and he's still going. ... Gosh darn, that kid is fun to watch. We were lucky to have him. He was our bell cow. Every game he went over 100 yards, we won."
A reminder to all that opposing coaches vote here and a coach is not allowed to vote for his own players. Rick Ramunno is here on his merits by being a consummate fullback, blowing open holes for guys like Nielsen and getting the tough yards in third- and fourth-down situations.
John Ramunno's take: "His best forte was that lead block. Rick did a good job of getting low. He's not real big. He's 160-165 pounds, but he really exploded into a hit. We usually sent him in after the defensive end to make a seam between the defensive end and the tackle. And, when we needed a couple of yards, he went straight ahead."
So could the transfer from Norwood adjust to 11-man football from 8-man? Yep. As a linebacker, he hit everything that moved. Having played just a little bit of everything with Norwood offensively, LaFramboise found a home on the offensive line as well.
Ramunno's take: "He was all worried about guys being bigger and faster at this level. Football is football. He has a big body to begin with and is an aggressive kid. He loves to hit and he fit our senior class like a glove."
A tight end and defensive end, the senior played multiple roles for the Devil, doing everything from returning kicks to plugging opposing teams' running games. Hart was also successful with more than 20 grabs when Eagle Valley went to the air.
Ramunno's take: "He's so athletic. He could get great blocks for you. You could split him out and he'll catch that fade or we'd run that wheel route and he gets into space. He ran well, too."
Probably quarterback Jordon Hudspeth's favorite target at tight end, Boyd also did a nice job of breaking things up at defensive end. Though he had many great catches on offense, his best grab was probably a highlight-reel pick against Palisade.
Ramunno's take: "I think for two straight summers he was down here throwing and catching. Someone in our community asked if he had flypaper on his hands. I was hoping to see that interception against Palisade on SportsCenter."
Great nose guard and a great offensive lineman. Sanchez symbolized the revitalization of Eagle Valley football by working in the weight room, and he holds the school record of bench-pressing 340 pounds. He isn't very tall, but he beat his opponents with strength and speed.
Ramunno's take: "After the Delta game, their coach said, 'Your No. 71 is a stud. Same thing with the Rifle coach. That's pretty coal that a kid draws respect like that."
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.