All roads lead to state for Devils
Every year, the expectations rise for Eagle Valley athletics. And, every year, the Devils seem to surpass those challenges with glorified seasons.
It started in the fall, when the football and volleyball teams each advanced far into postseason play. Then, it continued with a strong winter and, finally, peaked in the spring with a slew of highlights. From senior Kim Smith’s third-straight championship in the 800 in track to the baseball team landing three stars on the Senior Showcase Games, individuals shined. The girls soccer team completed its best seasons in school history by advancing to state, winning a first-round game and finishing 15-3 on the year.
Here’s the highlights from the year, season by season, sport by sport:
Six football stars from the state of Colorado were named Old Spice Red Zone Players of the Year, and Eagle Valley senior Justin Wood was one of them.
As quarterback, Wood passed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons, as well as starting as a defensive back for the Devils, who won the 3A Western Slope League and advanced to the state semifinal game.
Senior John Saldana was named the Western Slope Lineman of the Year on a team that won its first 11 games of the season and made it to the state semifinals. Saldana was also an all-state selection.
Nine other Devils were named to the all-league teams, while coach John Ramunno won his second-straight league coach-of-the-year award.
Those voted to the first team include: senior quarterback Justin Wood, senior wingback J.J. Alvis, Jagger, Saldana and senior defensive-end Pat Kohl.
For the Devils, this season couldn’t have been more of a surprise. At the start, Eagle Valley wasn’t ranked and was considered the underdog to Cedaredge to win the 2A Western Slope League. The Devils had graduated 13 seniors and logic said it would be a rebuilding year. This happens. Teams go through cycles. But it couldn’t have been any more the opposite. The Devils shut out their first two opponents in the postseason, including a 35-0 win over Wray at home, eventually falling to Eaton, 51-6.
Eagle Valley hit Gunnison with everything but a lawsuit in drilling the Cowboys for a mercy-shortened 14-4 win in their district softball title game.
With the win, Eagle Valley traveled to Aurora for the regional round of the state playoffs, their third straight year to make it to the show.
After sweeping the 3A Western Slope League softball season with a perfect 4-0 record, six Eagle Valley Devils were honored will all-
Juniors Jessica Jagger, Sara LyBarger, Brianna Ehlert and senior Cathryn Reynolds all landed on the first team, while senior Lindsay Kunkel and freshman Kayla Phillips earned selections to the honorable-mention team.
Senior Derek Fawcett, the Devils’ center midfielder, was named to the 3A Western Slope all-league team, along with fellow-midfielder and senior Matt Hogoboom. Tommy Michelbrink earned honorable mention honors.
Highlights for Fawcett include his first goal as a member of the varsity and the game-winner in overtime against Colorado Rocky Mountain School late in the season. The Devils qualified for regional action, partly due to the come-from-behind win against CRMS.
Eagle Valley finished fourth in the Western Slope this season, a big improvement from the previous season, when the Devils failed to qualify for regionals.
Eagle Valley finished the season with an impressive 21-9 mark. In the process, the Devils added league, district and regional banners to Hot Stuff Gymnasium.
Senior Erin Sterkel, the starting setter for the Devils, hit the 30-assist mark time and time again this season, and her merits have earned her a trip to the 3A all-state game at Broomfield High School in Denver.
Eagle Valley wrestling sent 12 to state last weekend, returning four Devils with medals around their neck.
Soon after, junior Tim Reitz (140) and freshman Chris Harvey (145) pinned their opponents in the first round of state to advance. As the big men lumbered onto the mat, 215-pound senior Jeff Bair won a solid decision as well.
The mark earned the red and black second place in the region behind Hotchkiss and the second-most state qualifiers in school history.
The 12 wrestlers tied with Hotchkiss for the most representatives out of the region, prompting Lueders to prepare for possible championship matches.
Eagle Valley’s Nordic girls used a 13th-place finish from Katie Wick and a 16th-place finish from Jill Ewing to place fourth in the state. The boys, meanwhile, placed ninth behind a strong showing from Dan Lewis and Everet Minett.
In the Alpine races, Kyle Green led the Devils in the giant slalom, landing in 30th. Matt Luczkow took 36th and Matt Herr finished 38th.
Craig Jagger led the Devils into regional action as a first-team all Western Slope point guard. The Devils lost to Platte Valley in the regionals, 66-45, to cap a 10-13 season.
Eagle Valley finished fourth in the Western Slope this season, a big improvement from the previous season, when the Devils failed to qualify for regionals. The Devils, after losing in the first round to Cedaredge, beat Gunnison 47-35 and Hotchkiss 59-57 to earn a spot in regionals. In fact, without a buzzer-beater from Sarah Brubeck in the fifth-place game in the district finals, the Devils might not have advanced at all.
After a 20-3 season, Eagle Valley baseball coach Derek Cordes knew the postseason awards would surely come. The Devils have dominated all-league teams for the past decade and this year proved to be no different.
But there was one glaring addition. No Devil since Mike Reynolds in 1993 has been invited to the 3A Senior Showcase game. This year, a third of the starting lineup was wearing red and black, as Justin Wood, J.J. Alvis and Jason Leniger were selected to the team.
The trio have the regular-season stats to be in any starting lineup. Wood, selected to the all-state team as a designated hitter, led the team with a .646 average and two home runs and started at catcher. Alvis, a pitcher and outfielder nominated to the all-state, honorable-mention squad, hit .528 and knocked three out of the park, while the shortstop Leniger hit one dinger and batted .556.
Leniger, Wood, Alvis, Steve Evancho and Chris Lopez were selected to the all-league team. Craig Jagger, Keegan Keltner and Sean Bartlett were all-league, honorable-mention selections. The Devils won league and district championships, as well.
In the last tournament of her high-school career, Eagle Valley senior Erin Sterkel went up to the first tee at state with a mission: leave no shots out on the course.
After shooting a career-best 76 at the West Woods Golf Course in Arvada, placing fifth in the 4A state tournament and leading her team to the best finish in school history, one could safely say, “Mission accomplished.”
The Devils placed second in the state after the two-day event concluded, behind powerhouse Mullen, who has won every 4A state tournament since the state split golf into classes three years ago.
Charly Hoehn, a junior with plenty of state experience, scored an 89 and an 87 in the two-day event and ended up 12th overall. Juniors Miranda Cox and Mandy Preston were in the low-90s for both days, playing a strong supporting role to Sterkel’s performance.
For Eagle Valley girls soccer, 15 wins and second place in the 3A Western Slope means just one thing – hardware.
Five Devils landed on the all-league team, after going 15-2-1 on the season and earning a spot among the final eight teams in the state. Seniors Brooke Baughfman and Kathryn Brock, along with junior Sam Phillips, were honored as first-team selections.
Juniors Jessica Jagger and Stephanie Morris were honorable-mention picks on the best team in Eagle Valley’s history.
Eagle Valley senior Kim Smith won her third-straight 3A state championship in the 800 Saturday at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo, using a huge kick in the last 200 meters to overcome La Junta’s Ashley Velez.
Smith wasn’t the only member of a strong Devils team to have a strong showing. Sophomore Brad Gamble picked up two second-place finishes in the hurdle events, losing the 300 hurdles by half a chin.
Gamble’s times of 38.81 and 15.07 in the 300 and 100, respectively, were both personal bests for the young speedster.
Eagle Valley girls’ medley team (Whitney Donahue, Laura Sandoval, Katie Wick and Smith) started the day off with a seventh-place finish, before the sun began baking the athletes and fans.
In the team competition, Eagle Valley boys finished sixth, after finishing sixth last season. The girls team finished 14th.
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