Chris Freud: Who will be the surprise this season in Eagle County preps? | VailDaily.com

Chris Freud: Who will be the surprise this season in Eagle County preps?

Chris Freud

Sometimes, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do this job.

I didn't go out on a limb saying that Battle Mountain girls cross-country should be good this year. The Huskies are the defending state champs, returning everyone and odds are good that neither Harding sister will get hit by lightning. (We really hope. Knock wood, everyone.)

Eagle Valley's Barrett Jones will likely make the state-golf tournament, unless he turns into me at regionals. Even then, his chances are still pretty good.

Young Jones shot at 72 on Monday to win Eagle Valley's home tournament at Gypsum Creek. He's probably hacked about even par. I have no sympathy.

The harder part about this job is figuring out who will surprise this fall. Every season of every year, there's always something you don't expect.

Last fall, I was thinking about either Eagle Valley or Battle Mountain volleyball being the surprise team. The Devils won on that count.

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Who is it this fall?

Volleyball

While Eagle Valley volleyball is the big dog — pardon the expression — locally, having made state last season, you might want to look to East Vail.

Vail Mountain School went 14-7 last season and competed well is District 5, aka the 2A Slope, which is stacked.

Paonia remains a beast and Meeker will always be tough. West Grand lost a lot to graduation. There are three tickets out of District 5. Don't be surprised to see the Gore Rangers dancing.

Battle Mountain was mistake-prone last season. Please don't yell at me. Coach Jason Fitzgerald said the exact same thing to start every postgame we had last season. That can be fixed.

Another reason for optimism in Huskies' camp is that the team returns its setter in Lily DeMuth. Just keep that name handy.

Soccer

Yes, we expect Battle Mountain to make the playoffs. The Huskies have done so for the last 19 years.

But what about VMS and Eagle Valley? The Gore Rangers lost a ton to graduation, and that's harder on a 2A-sized school. The tradition is there, and the underclassmen have spent their careers seeing their "elders" wear orange. It's motivation.

Devils soccer isn't far off. Simply put, Eagle Valley has to pretend it's playing Battle Mountain or Steamboat Springs every game. The Devils have given the Huskies fits the last three years.

If the Devils could find some consistency in that intensity, then they're dangerous.

Football

First off, Oct. 27. Yes, that's the game — Eagle Valley at Battle Mountain. Be there.

Both the Devils and Huskies have new offensive looks. If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

If the Devils can get a win or two against a tough nonconference slate, then things might get interesting in Gypsum.

Battle Mountain football didn't get in a hole overnight, and it's not getting out of the hole overnight. I do think that new coach Jim Schuppler and company will turn this thing around. Being competitive in the rugged 3A Slope would be a step.

As for Vail Christian football, let's be healthy this year. I think I pulled a hamstring covering this team last year. The Saints have had a year to get used to 11-man football. If healthy, then they can compete.

Cross-country

Yes, Battle Mountain is the headliners, but Eagle Valley's girls can make some noise. Joslin Blair has a year of varsity running under her belt. Avery Doan's a grizzled veteran as a junior.

If the Devils get some depth, then Eagle County could have another team going to state.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

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