Here are the high school teams to watch (or not)
August 27, 2014
And now we begin in earnest.
Happy first full weekend of preps sports. Here are few teams I'm looking at this fall:
Battle Mountain is the four-time defending champion in the 4A Slope and, yet, maybe only in name. Hear me out, people.
The turnover from the state-title team in 2012 is all but complete. All the starters of the 20-0 campaign have graduated, including the security blanket that was Roberto Diaz last year.
However, the legacy of Battle Mountain soccer — boys and girls — is the program's ability to retool on the fly. The team has made the postseason 16 straight years and has gone 8-for-10 in league titles since 2004.
The storyline is "Who steps up?" Or in coach David Cope-speak, "What story does this team write?"
The nonconference schedule is stout with The Classical Academy, at Evergreen (Holy flashback, Batman) and at Montrose. No cheapies there. It's also good that Delta joins the 4A Slope, and the Panthers should challenge the Huskies' reign along with Steamboat Springs and Summit County.
The trenches will tell all this fall. Eagle Valley was right in the middle of the 3A Slope last year. The Devils could move the ball, and stop the other team from doing so, against the lesser lights of the league and its nonconference foes, yet ran into a wall on that front against the power teams of the conference — Palisade, Delta, Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
Adding to the intrigue is when do we find out if Eagle Valley is a contender? Is it Friday? Eagle Valley and Vista Peak are very similar — both 5-5 teams last year with a lot of talented returnees who are now seniors.
Will it be at Rifle on Sept. 19 or at Glenwood on Oct. 3?
Delta, Rifle, Palisade and Glenwood look like the four that will go to the postseason from the Slope, but … the pieces are in place in Gypsum to disrupt this plan if the offensive and defensive lines can move bodies around.
Will the playoff success of the past two years or so for boys' sports rub off on this year's edition? (Vail Christian won the league title in the old 8-man Slope last year, and basketball went to state in 2013 and 2014.)
Vail Christian has the veterans who have been in big situations before — Mike Lange, Max Shramm, Clayton Davis and Sug Ellsworth. Are they ready to take the leadership role?
It's up to you, gents.
While Vail Christian is in a new league, the Saints have played a lot of the teams in the Central League the past few years with the exception of Nederland. I'd bet Blue Crush is in the mix.
Welcome to Freud's happy world, a place where Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain should compete at a high level. Seriously, I can't stand it when a rivalry game is lopsided, as is often the case when these two schools get together. (The Devils owning football and the Huskies owning soccer are examples.)
This is a continuation of track and field last spring, which was neck-and-neck all spring, particularly on the girls' side with the Devils winning.
In cross-country, Battle Mountain's girls are generally the favorite, but Eagle Valley's added Carly Volkmer, so that race should tighten. On the boys' side, the two teams are likely very close, especially in experience.
While it is comparing apples to oranges, take Eagle Valley's Michael Niemeyer's time of 15 minutes, 30 seconds in Grand Junction on Saturday and compare it to the Huskies' Cameron Moore's 17:38 down in Colorado Springs at pre-state. Yes, Niemeyer's time was on a shortened course, but it's still fast. Also consider that he was running in a mud bath. Meanwhile, Moore's time was on a traditionally slower course. Consider all those factors and they're close.
The good news is that we get to see the Huskies and Devils go head-to-head the next two weeks on two different types of courses. Friday, both are in Delta (a fast course) and then at Beaver Creek (a hillier course).
These two school should be going back and forth all season.
I've got no clue.
With the 4As, Battle Mountain graduated a lot from last year's Slope title team, and Eagle Valley's situation is obviously a difficult one with the summer's events. Yet both teams won their openers.
We'll start to get a picture of Eagle Valley as it goes to Regis this weekend. Battle Mountain mercifully upgraded its schedule from last year and is at Montrose (No. 7 in the CHSAA rankings) tonight.
And seriously, attempting to pick 2A volleyball (Vail Christian and Vail Mountain) is a fool's errand. I've learned something in 16 years here. Turnover at schools this size makes it silly to try. The CHSAA pool has Meeker and Paonia in the 2A top 10. The Saints play Meeker early next month, but that's a nonconference game under the new league setup.
Really, please don't ask me how this is going to go.
And that is one of many reasons I do enjoy this job. There are things I know — Battle Mountain soccer is good; Eagle Valley football is better than Battle Mountain. And then somebody comes out of absolutely nowhere and has a season no one saw coming.
See you at the games.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.
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