Rivalry time. Battle Mountain visits Eagle Valley for futbol and football tonight and Friday.
And even if it isn’t an official rivalry, everything’s getting so important with regard to postseason positioning that they’re rivalry-like games anyway.
• OK, Battle Mountain soccer at Eagle Valley tonight at 6. This is a prime example of a spoiler/shadenfreude moment. The Devils can deny the Huskies a league title here. Question No. 1: Which Eagle Valley team shows up tonight? The Devils, in another sign of development of their program, are maddeningly inconsistent. (Young teams do this.) The reason the Huskies are playing for a league title is that the Devils hung a tie on Summit County in September. That is one of many good results Eagle Valley has against the top-three of the Slope (Battle Mountain, Steamboat and Summit). Yes, the Devils are 0-3-2 against this trio, but consider that all three losses were all one-goal games. On the other hand, how did Eagle Valley lose to Palisade last week? That’s a head-scratcher.
Eagle Valley seems to be in the stage where it plays up or down to its competition. Given that the Huskies are a high-quality side, it’s logical to assume that the Devils bring their A-game.
Question No. 2: Do the Huskies deal with the narrow pitch and the high emotions of the game. The returns from last week’s game at Summit augur well. Battle Mountain width won over Summit’s over-the-top style, not only on the scoreboard, but with how it closed the game. I think the latter’s more important if the Huskies are to go where they want. Compare how the Huskies closed out their opening 3-1 win against Montrose to how they did the same at Summit. Much better.
Question No. 3: How do both teams play it tonight? Can Battle Mountain deliver an early knockout without attempting to score three goals at once, which generally doesn’t work? The longer Eagle Valley hangs around, the better for the Devils. If this scenario develops, does Battle Mountain stay patient? Does Eagle Valley play for a tie? (Probably not. Beating Battle Mountain could be a huge stepping stone for the program.) If it’s tied late, does Battle Mountain throw everyone forward?
By the way, Battle Mountain, history says if you want to do well in the playoffs, you win league first. The past nine years, Battle Mountain has won league seven times and been 7-0 in the first round of the playoffs. The other two years? The Huskies are 0-2 in the first round.
• Any chance of Battle Mountain football sneaking up on Eagle Valley went out with the Devils’ loss at Montezuma-Cortez last week. That must have been a most unpleasant ride home. Any chances of the playoffs went out with that. This is a back-to-basics moment for Eagle Valley not only for this week, but for next year as well. This is a talented team, when healthy, but as we’ve seen, that’s not always going to be the case. I’m not saying the following. Coach John Ramunno said it after last week’s game. You guys weren’t ready to play last week. It wasn’t the first time, either. (I’m saying this now.) Delta and Glenwood Springs ring a bell? You are not good enough to show up and expect teams to crumble. The 2014 season starts this week.
As for Battle Mountain, all the pressure is on Eagle Valley. No one (myself included) thinks you can win. That’s fine. Play loose and throw everything at the Devils. There’s a reason games are played on the field and not on a computer. Most of all, hold onto the football. You guys were winning at Steamboat Springs before multiple turnovers. It can be done.
• OK, everything’s turning into a rivalry game in the Central League. It’s really one of the more fun things about covering the Saints. Be it the ladies with volleyball and basketball or the gents with football and basketball, it’s the same characters in every sport. Think we’re joking? Every time West Grand’s Casey Gore caught a pass last week, Saints boys basketball coach Sheldon Kuhns kept flashing back to Travis Gore’s 70-footer at the buzzer to beat Vail Christian two winters ago. At the West Grand game, we had Soroco’s coaching staff in front of us on scouting expeditions. Two weeks ago or so against Soroco, the West Grand staff was sitting there, watching both teams. Familiarity breeds contempt.
And that brings us to Week 8 of Vail Christian’s football season. (Yes, this will only be game No. 6, but stay with me.) Hayden, Friday night. Could a Vail Christian boys sporting team finally beat the Tigers? Along those lines, everyone must carry Cole Caynoski to class so that he’s healthy and ready to go. (No rushing back, Cole. Once you are healthy, you may rush.)
• Volleyball: Hearty congratulations to Battle Mountain on winning the Slope volleyball title. Now, it’s time to step up. I know the maxpreps.com poll says you are the No. 5-ranked team in the state. That’s good for the purposes of getting you into regionals. It is not a true measure of how good you are. I have seen teams that were ranked No. 5 or better, and this is not it ... yet. Winning the Slope is one thing. Being good against Front Range teams is another.
On the 1A front, the Saints need to win one of two against North Park on Friday and Hayden on Saturday to clinch the top seed going into districts. I haven’t run this by coach Cathy Alexander yet, but it’s really OK to win both.
• All four cross country teams head to Delta on Friday afternoon. Durango is the team to beat be you Battle Mountain or Eagle Valley, female or male. Can we get all four teams again to state? Who’s going to top whom in the boys’ race? Devils and Huskies or Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley, however you want to phrase it, are neck-and-neck.
Run faster than Freud. I think I broke 30 minutes back in high school.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.