Editor’s note: This is the first of several previews on the fall preps season. Battle Mountain football will appear in Thursday’s edition.
GYPSUM — It’s not just you. It is early for high school football.
But welcome to Zero Week as a revamped Eagle Valley squad hosts Cedaredge Friday night at 7 p.m. at Hot Stuff Stadium in Gypsum.
Zero Week has its pros and cons. The former is that coach John Ramunno’s squad gets a bye week later in the season. The latter is a team has all of about nine days of practice and it’s game time.
For the trivially-inclined, the Devils are 1-2 in Zero Week games the last three years. The two losses were to Faith Christian, which likely would have happened in any-numbered week given the quality of the Eagles. The Devils went to Cedaredge last year at this time and thumped the Bruins, 32-6.
That was the beginning of an exciting year for both squads. Class 1A Cedaredge never lost another game, running the table on its way to a state title, capped by an 18-16 win over Buena Vista Thanksgiving weekend. Meanwhile, the Devils raced their way to an 8-4 record and their first 3A playoff appearance since 2005.
The challenge for Eagle Valley is to retool on the fly in 2013. Seventeen seniors from last year’s team are gone, and that is of particular concern in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
“The No. 1 thing we’re working for is experience,” Ramunno said. “We like what we have on the field. We have some kids who can run well, but there is no substitute for experience.”
Meet the Devils
Tackle Joe Felix is the one returnee on both sides of the ball for a line which did a superb job of blowing open holes for the Devils’ stable of backs out the team’s patented double-wing offense.
Ramunno has Xavier Mendoza at the other tackle and three guards for two spots in Devin Ward, Josh Williams and Lane Smith. While Smith can also play center, Ramunno expects for now that Juan Tuscano will be doing the snapping to start.
The Devils have plenty of options at tight end — six to be precise. Sonam Lama, Jacob Morrison, Josh Gordon, Davey Madrid, Cody Byrnes and Keenan Branch are all in the mix in this tight-end heavy offense. The Devils are still sorting out who’s better with blocking and catching and the assorted game situations which will call for those talents.
Orin Reichardt is under center for the Devils and will be directing a deep backfield with some experience from last season. Reichardt himself saw some playing time as Jordon Hudspeth’s understudy last fall. Junior Harrison Stevens is the back-up at quarterback. (At this early point of the season, nothing is etched in stone.)
If you’ve played “Eagle Valley Football: The Home Game,” you know that the double wing really works best with a plethora of tailbacks. Victor Avila, who got a lot of snaps last year, is at A-back, and will be spelled by Christian Aguilar. Riley Rowles, as evidenced by track and his appearances in pads in 2012-13, brings a lot of speed to the B-back slot, as does Jay Neal.
At C-back, look for juniors Luis Chavez and Mike Ramunno.
As is customary in the 3A Slope, we’ll see a lot of those same names on the defensive side of the ball. Lama, Williams, Felix and Mendoza are the linemen with Avila, Ward and Lane all seeing time at end.
Chavez, Branch and Gordon are the line-backing corps with just about everyone else listed above likely getting time in the secondary.
Round up the usual suspects when it comes to the highly-competitive 3A Slope. Palisade, under Joe Ramunno, one of the three coaching Ramunnos, is one of the favorites along with Rifle. (Yes, the Bears did lose Ryan Moeller, but that program churns out solid football teams under coach Damon Wells.)
Glenwood Springs returns quarterback Travis Lundin and Rocky Whitworth’s Demons are always a handful. Eagle Valley’s 25-21 loss at Delta still seems to be a sore spot with John Ramunno, which is way of saying the Panthers should also be in the mix.
“Last year, the league showed well in the playoffs,” Ramunno said. “Everyone did pretty well. Every week, you better be ready to strap it on.”
And just in case anyone’s curious, Battle Mountain’s in Gypsum on Oct. 18.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via email@example.com.