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Vail Christian football falls in quarterfinals

It was a game.

It didn’t end well because it rarely does — only seven teams win state titles out of hundreds of Colorado football teams that start the season.

But it was a game.

Dayspring Christian ended Vail Christian’s season, defeating the Saints, 38-28, during Saturday’s state quarterfinals in Greeley.

Vail Christian finished the year with a spectacular 10-1 record.

Dayspring Christian (10-1) advances to face Plains Conference foe Sedgwick County (11-0) next week. The Eagles’ only blemish on the season was a 56-16 loss to Sedgwick in October.

Vail Christian led 16-0 during the first quarter and trailed just 30-28, going into the fourth quarter. This is significant because teams from Plains, the best league in Colorado 8-man football, have thoroughly dominated the Saints in the postseason.

Teams like Merino, Haxtun, and Caliche and yes, Dayspring beat the hooey out of Vail Christian in past years. Before Saturday, the Saints had lost seven times to Plains teams by a combined count of 276-51.

So while painful now, there is merit to very competitive showing.

Jamison Lee hit Chris Cappel for a 12-yard scoring strike. Cappel latter took it himself for a 16-0 lead.

A Micah Sharpe score pulled the Saints within 30-28 during the third quarter.

On the other side of the ball, Vinny Nowicki and  Andrew Flynn both had interceptions. Hayden Sticksel and Ryan Downey each came up with onside kicks.

“It’s a tough way to end a good season,” Saints coach Tim Pierson said. “The guys played with a lot of heart and it’s a great bunch of seniors.”

In other 8-man action, Sedgwick County drilled Merino, 54-0. Fowler defeated Mancos, 34-28, and will face Pikes Peak Christian, which upset No. 2 Sanford, 28-6.

Vail Christian football readies for Dayspring

In theory, Vail Christian football is the favorite by seed when it travels to face Dayspring Christian in Greeley on Saturday at 1 p.m. during the state quarterfinals.

History says otherwise.

Whatever one calls the Saints’ league — Central, North or Northwest — whenever Vail Christian runs into the Plains League, things generally don’t end well.

Jamison Lee and Vail Christian are looking to reverse the history against a Plains League opponent, Dayspring Christian, this weekend.
Mort Mulliken | Daily file photo

Between the old crossover games and the state playoffs, the Saints are 1-6 against the Plains League, the preeminent conference in 8-man football, in the postseason.

The happy-happy-joy-joy moment in that 1-6 record was beating Merino, 38-34, back in 2014 at Phelan Field in EagleVail. The unfortunate coda to the story is Dayspring Christian beat the Saints the next week, 42-0, in Greeley.

That, boys and girls, was why Ethan Kuhns, Class of 2018, who was back home from Grand Canyon University in Arizona, jumped into the postgame huddle after the Saints beat Dove Creek, 66-30, last week during Round 1 to tell the team they were playing Dayspring.

Kuhns, a freshman on that 2014 team, was ready to suit up himself. Can we get Sug Ellsworth, Class of 2015, back from Creighton?

Never mind.

The Eagles

Think we’re joking about the Plains Conference being the SEC of Colorado 8-man?  The last six state champions are from the Plains, including four straight from Sedgewick County, this year’s No. 1 seed. Look back and 10 of the last 12 — with Hoehne (Arkansas Valley) as the only interloper — state champs are from this league.

This is not to say that Vail Christian should spend Saturday afternoon cowering on the bus.

The common-opponents numbers are comparable. Byers plays in the Plains and Dayspring defeated the Bulldogs, 54-15, while the Saints blanked them, 66-0.

Both squads took care of Front Range Christian  — the Saints won, 48-12, and the Eagles, 40-0. Vail Christian beat Rangely, 34-22, and Dayspring beat those Panthers, 52-0.

Dayspring passes more than the average 8-man team, so look for quarterback Christian Still. Senior Caden Bonnell is his favorite target with 42 catches for 522 yards.

Bonnell leads the Eagles with 90 carries for 879 yards. On the ground, also look for Still to call his own number as well as handing it to Garrett Krehbiel and Wyatt Eichman.

Around the state

The winner of Saturday’s game takes on the winner of Sedgewick County-Merino. Were Vail Christian to win this week, the Saints would host the semifinals.

Merino edged West Grand, 14-8, last weekend.

On the other side of the bracket, Pikes Peak Christian faces Sanford and Mancos plays Fowler.

Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain finally produce a classic

As seems usual in my sports-fan existence, I root for the team that comes tantalizingly close to being good, only to fall to pieces.

With the exception of the apocalyptic success earlier this decade, the San Francisco Giants are that team, good enough to tease you, but always breaking your heart.

The San Francisco 49ers did that to me Monday night, giving up 21 points off three turnovers in a 27-24 loss to Seattle in overtime.

And this outlook on sporting matters brings us to last weekend’s Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain football game, a thrilling 22-15 Devils’ win.

I feel for Battle Mountain losing, but this does not make Eagle Valley the Seattle Seahawks, or, perish the thought, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

What a game on Friday night.

Ain’t it great …

• Let’s first start with the fact that it was, in fact, thrilling. Having been here since the fall of 1997, this game is usually a lopsided affair, usually in Eagle Valley’s favor. Before Friday, Eagle Valley was clinging to a 14-6 lead in the series with two of the Huskies’ wins coming in 1997.

Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley played a nonconference game in Week 1, and both had open dates the same weekend when Glenwood Springs and Basalt dropped to JV that season, so the two schools played again.

The true count was really 16-6 because the two teams played scrimmages in 2001 and 2002, and keeping score in scrimmages is against the rules – Eagle Valley won both by a score of 50-something-to-the-token-lone-final-drive-touchdown.

So first off, how cool was it to see the rivalry game come down to Eagle Valley needing a 97-yard drive to overcome a 15-14 deficit? (I suppose very cool for Eagle Valley fans, and not so much for Battle Mountain partisans.) 

Given the lack of offense in the first 43 or so minutes, did anyone outside of that huddle think the Devils could go 97 yards? You’re lying.

• Eagle Valley had been trying to get the ball to Matt Lee without success for most of the game, including a pitch play that met with little success.

And then two long passes, including the game-winner. Good throw by Will Geiman. Great effort by Lee to make it to the end zone.

• Speaking of Geiman, the kid’s a sophomore. (By the way, you’re all kids to me now.) In the fine tradition of me, I made him a year older in a previous article. I seem to do this with Devils’ quarterbacks. Jesse Moser was a senior in his junior year, according to me, and he finally graduated last spring.

Back to Geiman, while it’s tough starting as a sophomore, it’s going to be nice the next two years,

With the caveat that everyone on both teams needs to hit the weight room — like right now — Eagle Valley is returning most of the nucleus of this 5-5 team.

Get to work now.

An anecdote

I’m in the Battle Mountain shared football/soccer locker room on Tuesday to interview coach David Cope after the local 11 had just beaten Montrose. I see Huskies football coach Jim Schuppler and jokingly — again, jokingly — ask him if he has the flip play in for the Eagle Valley game.

He smiles and says, “Yes.”

You can call “Shoop” a lot of things, but a liar he ain’t. I never thought the Huskies would do that twice.

Anthony Sanchez

Yes, the Battle Mountain junior had the fumble that set up Eagle Valley’s game-winning drive. Hey, Anthony — You. Did. Not. Lose. The. Game.

In a one-score game over 48 minutes, there were 1,000 different turning points. Blaming you makes about as much sense at blaming Kiah Gongaware for breaking his collarbone a few weeks ago and not being able to play against Eagle Valley. It’s not like he wanted to get hurt, and you certainly didn’t want to fumble.

Anthony, you are a huge part of this team, having started since the beginning of your sophomore year. Lean on your teammates to get through this and use it to make you stronger. You’re going to be a senior next fall and one of the leaders of this team and you’re going to grow from this into a better player and person.

No. 4 Vail Christian advances to Round of 8 with win over Dove Creek, 66-30

GYPSUM — Coach Tim Pierson and the Vail Christian football team continued their pursuit of a perfect season with a 66-30 win against Dove Creek on Saturday in the Round of 16 for 8-man football.

Alumnus Ethan Kuhns quickly let the team know in its postgame huddle the score of its next opponent in the Round of 8 —Dayspring Christian over Rangely, 52-0.

“We just executed perfectly,” Saints senior quarterback Jamison Lee said about the matchup with the Bulldogs at Eagle Valley High School on Saturday. “If we found something that didn’t work, we switched it up and just stuck it to them. We’ve got Dayspring next week, and we’re ready for them.”

A coin toss has the No. 4 Saints traveling to Greeley next week to play No. 5 Dayspring.

“They’re a great team,” Pierson said of Dayspring. “Everybody here in the playoffs is great.”

‘Senior heavy’

Vail Christian continues its undefeated season with a victory against Dove Creek on Saturday.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com

Against the Bulldogs, senior kicker Andrew Stojkovich sent the opening onside kick bouncing with Dove Creek unable to recover. Saints senior Hayden Sticksel recovered for the early momentum for Vail Christian.

It took Lee and the Saints offense two plays and 50 seconds to score on its opening drive, a 40-yard touchdown scamper by senior Simon Nowicki with less than a minute ticked off the game clock. Lee added the 2-point conversion on the ground.

Nowicki, Lee as well as seniors Chris Cappel and Micah Sharpe often required a pack of Bulldogs to be taken down throughout the game.

“We’re senior heavy,” Pierson said, “and it’s a good group.”

Dove Creek scored once it got the ball, looking to even the score, but an illegal man downfield penalty nullified the play, and the Bulldogs eventually turned the ball over on downs — thanks to three straight tackles at the line of scrimmage by Saints sophomore Vincent Nowicki.

Cappel took a 40-yard run to the house on the Saints second drive, but Vail Christian failed on its 2-point conversion, taking a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Bulldogs would answer on their next possession, a 50-yard run by Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler followed by swinging gate 2-point conversion — moving all but three players to the left of the field and one down lineman. The Saints then went four and out, and the Bulldogs tied the game at 14 on Cressler’s second 50-yard touchdown run of the game.

“The defense played well,” Pierson said of the Saints. “They have a great young quarterback and he got us on a couple plays, but we kept after it and got a couple big stops at key times.”

Tied 14-14 after the first quarter, the Saints would go on a 14-0 run to end the half, scoring on a Simon Nowicki 30-yard pass from Lee and Cappel’s second rushing touchdown.

Vincent Nowicki added an athletic interception in the second for Vail Christian, and senior Andrew Flynn also swatted some passes.

Simon Nowicki busted a 55-yard run on the opening drive of the second half for the Saints, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run on fourth down, making it 36-14. The Bulldogs answered right back in less than a minute on a beautiful fake high, handoff low by Cressler to Gauge Thompson, bringing Dove Creek within two scores in the third quarter, 36-22.

The Saints had an answer of their own, a 4-yard run by Sharpe, made possible by a costly offsides penalty by the Bulldogs on a Saints third down.

Leading 44-22 entering the fourth quarter, the Saints went up 50-22 on a 30-yard run by Lee followed by a four and out by the Bulldogs. Cappel’s third touchdown of the game, a 30-yard run on fourth-and-1, made the score 58-22 halfway through the fourth quarter.

“When we get our blocks, our offense is basically impossible to stop,” Cappel said.

Saints linemen Eddie Palacio, Slater O’Brien, and John Pavelich helped pave the way for the ground game — with Pavelich also scoring on a 2-point conversion late in the game.

Freshman quarterback Taylor Shull finished the fourth quarter, along with other up and coming Saints. Shull connected with Sticksel on a 45-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-2, showing poise in the pocket facing a blitz and waiting for his receiver to create separation.

Sophomore Orion Adelman helped move the ball for the Saints in the fourth quarter, and junior Jedrzej Szabla also helped drain the clock.

Up next is Dayspring, in Greeley on Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We’re just blessed for the opportunity and ready for Dayspring,” Lee said.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Lewis-Palmer knocks off No. 1 Battle Mountain soccer

EDWARDS — The clank of the crossbar will echo through the winter for No. 1-ranked Battle Mountain soccer.

Huskies soccer’s season came to a shocking and abrupt end with a 3-1 loss to No. 8 Lewis-Palmer in the state quarterfinals on an unseasonably warm Saturday in Edwards.

Ivan Solis and Battle Mountain soccer saw their season come to an end on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Lewis-Palmer.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Battle Mountain’s dream season ends at 16-1-1, while the victorious Rangers will take on Air Academy on Wednesday in the semifinals.

As senior superstar Dani Barajas said afterward, “We lost only one game this year.”

And with that single loss, the team is done for the season. After the final whistle, the squad walked arm in arm to thank the fans. There were tears, slumped shoulders and sullen looks, as expected, in the locker room as coach David Cope recognized each of his seniors without breaking down, always a tough task.

“I think when you set the bar as high as we do, you operate without a safety net.,” Cope said. “It becomes difficult because when you lose, it has that much more magnitude.  … This group is certainly good enough to go on. If we play this game tomorrow or play a seven-game series, you like your chances. But in a single-elimination knockout tournament, those are the kind of things that can happen.”

Get one, get two?

Down 2-0 at the half, Battle Mountain felt that if it could get on the board, the comeback would follow.

In the 69th minute, Barajas caught Rangers goalie Aiden McGonagle wandering too far out, and chipped his shot over him. The shot worked its way through the box and into the net, and Battle Mountain was in business.

Just minutes later, the Huskies had an indirect kick at the top of the box and Barajas cracked it off the crossbar.

Battle Mountain’s Quinn Mitchell shows his wheels against Lewis-Palmer.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Trevino Twiss had two chances, one wide right and the other blocked, but the crossbar will be the woulda, coulda shoulda moment.

“If that would have went in, that would have changed the outcome of the game,” Barajas said. “It was unlucky.”

“I just thought we saw a ton of class and kept battling to the end,” Cope said. “That’s what we pride ourselves in. That’s the name of our school and I thought once we got one, we would definitely have a chance for another one.  And we did and it hit the crossbar. It’s just amazing.”

Lewis-Palmer (15-3) got on the board with a well-executed set piece as Cole Mooney headed in a beautiful service from Tyler Prichard.

The Rangers’ Ethan Mann made it 2-0 late in the first half. After Barajas’crossbar, with everyone in Battle Mountain black pressing forward, Lewis-Palmer’s T.J. Wright finished it with 50 seconds left in regulation.

Looking back

With every other program at any school in the county, a 16-1-1 season is a spectacular one. During the team’s seniors’ four-year tenure, Battle Mountain boys’ soccer was 59-10-2.

The challenge of the next few days, weeks and months is figuring out how to balance what are rightly high standards while at the same time recognizing that one loss does not define a season.

“I think how we played on the field wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard,” senior defender Harrison Rubis said. “I just think we played well all the way.

“I’ll never forget any of these boys. I’ve been playing with them since elementary school.”

The team went out for pizza after the game, because as we all know, pizza is a panacea for the souls of teenagers.

“I just want to thank the boys, everything they did for me,” Barajas said. “I’m proud of being a part of this program. This is going to be successful, no matter what. Thank you for everything.”

Yet this will still sting for a while.

“We set a high standard, especially from July with the optional workouts to (Denver University) team camp to the preseason, and the boys played at such a high level,” Cope said.  “That’s what I’ll always remember from this season, that we got the No. 1 seed and we held it for three games. A lot of years, as we know, the No. 1 seed doesn’t win it. So does that mean we’ll shy away from it in the future? Hell no.”

Eagle Valley rallies past Battle Mountain, 22-15

EDWARDS — History repeated itself in many ways on Friday night when Eagle Valley football called on Battle Mountain. And history was made as well.

The Huskies still flipped, and the Devils still won, rallying for a 22-15 victory over their cross-county rivals in Edwards.

Eagle Valley’s Matt Lee caught “only” two passes. They were both big, but his 31-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Will Geiman with 1:25 left in the game, capping a dramatic 97-yard drive, will go down in the rivalry’s lore.

It’s the second year in a row Eagle Valley won bragging rights — the Devils won in Gypsum last year, 24-13. Maybe just as important, the Devils finished the season at 5-5 overall and 3-2 in the 3A Western Slope, the program’s best record since 2015.

Breeam lives

After both teams struggled offensively during the first quarter, the Huskies (2-8) finally got a good drive going. Battle Mountain marched 12 plays and 58 yards to the end zone. Huskies quarterback Kai Haggen completed a 12-yard pass to Spencer Goldberg and Anthony Sanchez had a 12-yard run to help things along.

Haggen called his own number from 2 yards to give the Huskies a 6-0 lead.

Now flashback to 2017, when the Huskies beat the Devils last. During that game, Huskies coach Jim Schuppler had senior snowboarder Breeam Brandenburg line up as the kicker for an extra point. Brandenberg did a backflip that captivated Eagle Valley while then-sophomore Kiah Gongaware ran in for a 2-point conversion.

Friday night, Victor Ortiz lined up as the kicker and did multiple backflips to his team’s sideline as Dalton Patterson hauled in the 2-point pass.

Geiman lives

To Eagle Valley’s credit, Battle Mountain’s trickery didn’t seem to faze the Devils. Three plays later, they were in the end zone. Sophomore quarterback Geiman ran around the left end for 42 yards toward daylight and the house.

The Devils went with the straight-forward point-after-touchdown, narrowing Battle Mountain’s lead to 8-7.

While Geiman’s second touchdown of the half with 27 seconds left in the first half was a carbon copy of the first, give the Eagle Valley defense credit for setting up the score.

The Devils’ defense harried Haggen into an intentional-grounding penalty and a sack, giving the offense good field position upon which to capitalize.

Eagle Valley’s defense stiffened again on Battle Mountain’s first drive of the second half. A Haggen 24-yard pass to Anthony Sanchez plus a roughing-the-passer flag got Battle Mountain down to the Devils’ 22. Lisandro Aguilar and Connor Weeks forced yet another intentional-grounding call that pushed the Huskies back 22 yards.

Lee lives

Battle Mountain simplified things by running behind junior Jeremiah Vasquez. Haggen and Sanchez got behind the big guy, gaining chunks, capped by Sanchez’s 5-yard run and a critical extra point by Milian Smith for a 15-14 lead.

Battle Mountain’s Elijah Morales came up with a fourth-quarter interception of Geiman. That seemed to set up a big drive for the Huskies.

In another one of those “what the heck happened?” plays, Sanchez busted off a huge run but fumbled. Both teams tried to fall on the ball, but Sanchez came up with his own miscue for a 66-yard gain.

The Huskies got down to third-and-goal on the Devils’ 6 before Sanchez fumbled again, this time with the Devils recovering. 

The Devils’ Matt Lee was conspicuously absent from the action until he hauled in a 34-yard pass from Geiman to put Eagle Valley into plus territory with fewer than four minutes remaining in regulation.

Geiman to Lee for 31 yards and a touchdown on third-and-9 with 1:25 left iced the game.

It was Senior Night for Battle Mountain, and the Huskies honored Ortiz, Gongaware, Goldberg, Parker Lutz, Garrett Anderson, Ryan Mach, Martin Velasco, Jimmy Hancock, and Lucas Zivelonghi.

Rivalry football

Devils        0   14  0  8 — 22

Huskies     0   8    7   0 — 15

First quarter

No scoring

Second quarter

B – Kai Haggen, 2 run, pass good, 6:52

E – Will Geieman, 42 run, kick good, 5:28

E – Geiman, 43 run, kick good, 0:27

Third quarter

B – Anthony Sanchez, 5 run, kick good, 3:34

Fourth  quarter

E – Geiman to Matt Lee, 31 pass, run good, 1:25

Vail Christian football starts the postseason

It was a strange sight in last week’s regular-season finale between Vail Christian football and Byers.

And, no, we’re not referring to defensive-lineman Slater O’Brien returning an interception for a touchdown in magnificent fashion.

With the game long decided — Vail Christian led, 44-0, at the half, and the clock was running — Saints coach Tim Pierson left in his starters. The coach was in no way trying to run it up against the Bulldogs.

He said after the game that he was trying to get his regulars as full of a game as possible, even with the running clock, in anticipation of the playoffs, which start today with No. 13 Dove Creek coming to Eagle Valley in Gypsum at 1 p.m.

One of the few challenges during a perfect 9-0 regular season is that Vail Christian really hasn’t played the full 48 minutes since a Week 4 12-6 win at West Grand. The Saints outscored Hayden, Soroco, Gilpin County, Plateau Valley and Byers, 266-70, during the last five weeks, and the upperclassmen were generally rooting on the youngsters by the third quarter.

Vail Christian expects to have its hands full for 48 minutes today against the Bulldogs, as opposed to last week’s Bulldogs.

Meet the Bulldogs, er, Dove Creek

Dove Creek comes into today’s game on a three-game losing streak, which is a little bit deceptive. All of those defeats came against Mountain Conference foes who start the playoffs in the top 10 of the division.

Keeping in mind that the Saints are No. 4 in the state, No. 2 Sanford decked Dove Creek, 64-12, but the Bulldogs were quite competitive in a 14-6 loss to No. 6 Mancos and in a 26-24 defeat at the hands of No. 10 Sargent.

In the common-opponent department, Dove Creek took down Norwood, 65-30, while the Saints beat the Mavericks, 40-14. Both Vail Christian and Dove Creek bludgeoned Plateau Valley, but the Saints did beat Rangely, 34-22, while the Bulldogs lost to the Panthers, 42-33.

Ironically, the winner of today’s game advances to the quarterfinals to play the winner of No. 5 Dayspring Christian and No. 12 Rangely.

While we don’t know if the Bulldogs run out of the single-wing, like the Saints, their offense is oriented around their quarterback. He’s sophomore Chorbin Cressler who threw for 678 yards and ran for 1,157 yards on 141 carries for 15 touchdowns. If Cressler isn’t running it, junior Gauge Thompson (679 yards off 74 carries), likely is.

Thompson is also Cressler’s favorite target in the passing game with 16 snags for 327 yards.

News and notes

Sedgewick County, champions of the Plains League, aka the SEC of 8-man football, is the No. 1 seed. … West Grand is No. 9 and at No. 8 Merino in what should be an exciting matchup. … As noted, Rangely is the third team from the Northwestern League. … Soroco (6-3) finished 19th in the rating-percentage index and was left out of the bracket.

Battle Mountain soccer hosts Lewis-Palmer in quarters

Welcome to the quarters.

Battle Mountain soccer hosts Lewis-Palmer today at 1 p.m. in the Elite Eight of the 4A state playoffs. Huskies fans would probably prefer a non-dramatic win for their blood pressure’s sake.

But history dictates otherwise. The program has played some of its most memorable games during the quarterfinals, and one of them has to be a candidate for the “Greatest Game Ever.”

A look back:

District 20 Stadium

For a while, this pitch was as infamous as Glenwood Springs’ Stubler Memorial Field. Battle Mountain’s 2004 and 2005 seasons came to an end here. Liberty, on its way to becoming a 5A school, crushed Battle Mountain, 4-0, in 2004 in the second round.

In 2005, Battle Mountain beat Evergreen, 5-3, and Cheyenne Mountain, 3-1, on Edgar Hernandez hat tricks. Quite frankly, I didn’t remember the Huskies beating Evergreen before 2012.

However, it happened, the Huskies went to District 20 Stadium for the quarters and lost to Pine Creek, also now a 5A school, 3-1. It stunk at the time, but the 2004 and 2005 teams raised the bar for teams to come. Hernandez, who scored in the loss against Pine Creek for seven goals in three games, also remains one of the more clutch performers in the program’s history.

Agony

An older head coach David Cope-ism is, “You validate their successes by documenting their failures.” Boy, did this one hurt.

No.  3 Battle Mountain hosted No. 11 Standley Lake in a seemingly favorable matchup for the home team on Nov. 7, 2015, except that …

Battle Mountain junior defender Miles Joersz scored an own goal. Then goalie Jack Skidmore had an errant clear, leaving an open net for the visitors.

Down 2-0, the Huskies lost 3-1.

Goalie coach Jim Glendining has said that this game was the driving force for the 2016 run to the state final, but, at the time, this was just devastating. If you didn’t ache for those two players, you just weren’t human.

D’Evelyn

The bracket blew up in 2016, allowing the No. 9 Huskies to host the quarters against D’Evelyn. Who knew that only the chaos was just beginning?

Perhaps in a bit of cosmic retribution for the aforementioned loss to Standley Lake, Battle Mountain was down 2-0 to the Jaguars with 23 minutes left. Juan Macias scored twice and Creek Kamby found the back of the net with 1:42 left for a miraculous 3-2 victory.

“I think the main thing was, in order to set us up for the semifinal, we wanted to put ourselves in a hole,” Cope said at the time. “So we did that twice.”

The slightly-edited chant of, “Let’s go nuts,” kept going until the state final later that season.

Evergreen

The Cougars were the bane of Battle Mountain’s existence, eliminating the Huskies in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the last in the quarterfinals. Despite a 15-0 record in 2012, Battle Mountain was the No. 6 seed and naturally had to go through Evergreen (No. 3).

Every year is a different journey, but this was “The Game.” Yes, the Huskies won on kicks as Christian Espinoza cemented his legend status, but they were simply the better team.

During the second half, a Front Range referee ran by Cope and said, “You guys are good,” apparently surprised that a mountain team could play high-level soccer.

Yes, there were still two games to go — Broomfield and Palmer  Ridge — but this was the one that put the Huskies over the top.

And, as we’ve noted previously, the 2019 team probably doesn’t give a fig about history, so let’s see what memories the Huskies make today.

Vail Valley volleyball teams seek state berths

Welcome to geography class, aka postseason volleyball, where we learn about the Centennial State in all its majesty as we figure out where  Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Vail Christian, and Vail Mountain are heading for their respective regional tournaments with the goal of qualifying for state.

The basics

The Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies, and Saints qualified regionals by finishing in the top 36 in their classification in the rating-percentage index. The top 12 teams by RPI in 4A and 2A host two other teams from around the state in a round-robin on Saturday with the winner going to state.

Please don’t ask us what happens if all three teams end up with 1-1 records. It involves higher math.

While the next point about timing might be obvious for veteran volleyball fans, it’s worth noting. The only match with a set time is the first one. Regional matches roll one after the next with the general rule of thumb being 90 minutes per match. Your mileage may vary, however. Don’t stray far if there’s a sweep, or definitely grab lunch if the two other teams in the regional seem destined to go five.

The last time everyone made state was:

• Battle Mountain (2014)

• Eagle Valley (2016)

• Vail Christian (2013)

• Vail Mountain (2018)

Huskies

Class 4A Region 9 Tournament at Discovery Canyon, 9:30 a.m.

Discovery Canyon has been discovered in Colorado Springs.  The host Thunder is 16-7, and out of the 5A/4A Pikes Peak League, where the team tied for third with Air Academy and were behind Lewis-Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain, all traditional powers of 4A volleyball.

By seed, Discovery Canyon is No. 9, Battle Mountain (16-7) No. 16 and Mullen (10-13) 28th.

Don’t buy that seeding with Mullen. The 4A Mustangs traditionally play a 5A schedule, which hurts them in the RPI because the formula does not give a bonus for playing up, but makes them dangerous when the postseason brackets come out in all sports.

The Huskies will be up against it in this round-robin, but the good news is that the team has already had more highs and lows than the Nasdaq this season. After looking done like dinner in an early-season loss to Glenwood Springs, the Huskies ran off eight straight wins. Battle Mountain also handed those Demons their only 4A Slope loss.

Devils

Class 4A Region 2 Tournament at Montrose, 10 a.m.

Hello, again.

Eagle Valley (No. 23, 12-10) faces a familiar foe in Montrose (No. 2, 19-4). The Indians beat the Devils way back on Sept. 3.

Avery VanGoey and Eagle Valley have a ticket to regionals in Montrose on Saturday.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

The ace in the Devils’ collective back pocket is that they’ve played a tough schedule that’s included Grand Junction Central, Green Mountain, Fruita Monument (twice), Legacy, Fairview, and the aforementioned Indians.

As impressive as tangling with strong 4As and 5As is, the Devils took 3A Colorado Springs Christian to five sets last weekend in a triangular in Erie. Regardless of classification, those Lions are traditionally one of the best teams in the state annually.

Eagle Valley opens its regional with a tilt against Longmont (14-9).

Saints

Class 4A Region 5 Tournament at Wiggins, 3 p.m.

Welcome back to the postseason, Vail Christian.

The Saints started the season 0-4 and finished with a 12-11 mark, including four- and seven-match winning streaks in Adina Petersmeyer’s first year at the helm.

Vail Christian hopes that the turnaround continues at Wiggins in the northeastern corner of the state.

The host Tigers tied for second in the Lower Platte League behind Merino, and Vail Christian and Vail Mountain know from the past how good Merino is.

While the Saints are making quite a road trip (171 miles), that’s a hop, skip and a jump for the other team in the regional, Hoehne (262 miles). The Farmers are so close to New Mexico that they’re in the Santa Fe League. (We understand it’s the trail and not the city).

Gore Rangers

Class 2A Region 2 Tournament at Limon, 4 p.m.

Welcome to the Eastern Plains, again, Vail Mountain. Seriously, what’s up with VMS’s travel in the postseason? Soccer went to Lamar and now volleyball to Limon.

Regardless of location, the Gore Rangers enter the postseason with some momentum. After losing eight of 10, they went on a tear, winning three in a row at the 2A Slope Tournament last weekend. That included a five-set win against West Grand, which enters regionals as the No. 7-ranked team in Class 2A.

VMS takes on Custer County (13-10) before facing host, Limon (18-5)

Battle Mountain soccer and a writer’s neuroses

As a sports writer, I am meant to be a dispassionate unbiased observer, which is absolute hooey.

Of course, I root for our local high school teams. When the Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies, and Saints win, it’s amazing how much our readers think I’m a “good” writer, writing “good” stories. When our teams lose, I’m an idiot, the bearer of bad news. (On Friday, I’m just rooting for a close game when Eagle Valley football visits Battle Mountain.)

I’ve gotten to know the coaches of the teams, in some cases having covered them as athletes when they were in high school, something that makes me feel proud and old simultaneously. As an only child, I have no idea how many siblings I’ve covered. We’re getting to the point where I am covering the offspring of “kids” I covered when I arrived here in 1997. That just makes me feel old.

So as we start/continue the playoffs this week, with the exception of 3A football, you bet your bippy I’m rooting for all four of our volleyball teams, everybody’s favorite 8-man football team and, yes, Huskies soccer.

And about that soccer team … I am not sure how I feel, even though we’re 17 blasted games into the season. Of course, I’m rooting for the team — the fellas, as coach David Cope might call them, are a joy to watch. I’m also in the neighborhood of my 40th season (boys since 1997 and girls since the early 2000s) working with Cope.

Yes, I want them to go all the way, but …

Think about the math

My brain is getting in the way. The rational part of me, even though the Huskies are already in the 4A quarterfinals playing Lewis-Palmer at 1 p.m. on Saturday, says that there is no way Battle Mountain soccer could possibly win the whole thing again.

It takes talent, hard work, timing and, yes, luck for a school like Battle Mountain to win a state title. Eagle Valley track and field in 2004 had Brad Gamble, Sean Matheson and company, once in a generation talents. (Heck, Gamble at 3A was his own track team in one person.)

Battle Mountain volleyball went to state in 2005, had the perfect alignment of no one graduating going into 2006 and a coach in Brian Doyon who was perfect for the situation at the time. The 2006 Huskies went 30-1, losing only to 5A Doherty in climbing to the top of the heap.

And, yes, in 2012, years of work, the right crew, the right experiences, say like losing to Evergreen three straight years in the playoffs and a coach who changed his style to the situation (yes, that same Cope guy) did the trick.

Everything clicked in 2012 for Huskies soccer, down to it snowing in Denver for the title game against Palmer Ridge. Heck, a team with an English-born coach won two shootouts in one postseason. (Thanks, Christian Espinoza.)

What are the odds of that happening again?

And I am trying to tell my brain to shut the hell up. First of all, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series three times. While I know that most of our readership doesn’t give a splat about my baseball team, it is proof that all things are possible.

More germane to the high school scene, I hear you Battle Mountain cross-country, a program with five state titles (2005, 2016 and 2017 for the ladies and 2006 and 2007 for the boys.)

What’s more, from my experience, sportswriters and coaches are more concerned with historical implications than the players. It’s a good bet that some of this year’s team caught a few games in 2012 as 11-year-olds or younger. Now a senior, Karsen Williams was a ball boy during that season.

But, otherwise, my bet is that Battle Mountain soccer couldn’t give two cents about how this team stacks up to 2012 or what the mathematical odds are for anything. Seriously, the team’s collective reaction to winning five straight 4A Slope titles — Huskies soccer has never done that before — was a collective, “meh.”

Please give me certainty

That said, I believe history repeats itself and I need to see the parallels.

What is fun about covering a ton of siblings and covering the kids of kids I covered is that alumni come back, and members of the 2012 team have been at games through the years.

There is quite a bit of smack talk among those guys, and they’ve earned the right. As a reporter, a winning team is fun, but a winning and witty one is even better, and that squad had some all-time smart alecs.

But when you cut through the you-know-what and talk to them about 2012 and the years building up to it, the common theme was Evergreen. After losing to Evergreen for the third time in the playoffs, it just wasn’t happening again. The team made a collective decision that it was going to win the whole darn thing again.

While we normally vetch about postseason seeding — this year, CHSAA did well — when the 2012 bracket came out and the Huskies were No. 6 and Evergreen No. 3, everyone in Battle Mountain’s camp knew what was going to happen in those quarterfinals. It did and the rest is legend.

So my neurotic, historically-driven question which provides a neat parallel with the past to assure me that everything’s going to end happily: Was the Kennedy loss, the Huskies’ first-round exit last October, “the Evergreen,” the driving motive of this year’s team?

If so, we may be onto something. We find out starting on Saturday. I’ll be the crazy one on the sideline.