Battle Mountain Huskies and Eagle Valley Devils football at a curious junction
November 1, 2017
This job does keep me on my toes.
It's really hard to believe the last week of local high school football.
• Battle Mountain beat Eagle Valley, something that in my 21 seasons here is still a shock.
• Pressed by health concerns, the Devils announced on Monday, Oct. 30, that they will forfeit this week's game against Glenwood Springs.
Let's establish some parameters.
This, in no way, should take away from the Huskies' win on Friday, Oct. 27. Battle Mountain has been in the same hole — often, with regard to roster numbers — in which the Devils found themselves this season. Beating Eagle Valley is very big deal, particularly for the new regime under Jim Schuppler.
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As for Eagle Valley, who would have ever thought the Devils would lack for numbers? Back to my 21 years here, Eagle Valley's the football school. The Devils are good, beat the heck out of the Huskies, go to the playoffs and yell, "Ain't it great to be a Devil?"
Battle Mountain football is what most people call soccer.
However, as consequential as the decision to end the season feels, it is the correct one.
The correct call
I rewatched last week's Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley game on HighFiveMedia.org. While I was aware of the Devils' injury woes watching it live, it comes more into focus with a second watch.
Battle Mountain, under a first-year coach who hasn't gotten the serious weight work going, was bigger than Eagle Valley. That's a problem. That hasn't been the case since 2011, which was the last time the Huskies beat the Devils.
As I watched the line of scrimmage, the Devils were very short on seniors. I saw senior J.P. Velasco there, but that's about it.
If you're young and undersized in the trenches, then you are going to get housed, especially in the 3A Slope.
Now throw in that Zak Cossette didn't start in the backfield for the Devils. Zach Carvill got hurt in the first half. And you have sophomore Keenen Collette and freshman Sabastian Witt attempting to run the ball. No disrespect to Collette or Witt, but those two are mismatches against a relatively speaking full-sized varsity team in Battle Mountain.
That also leaves quarterback Jesse Moser, just back from injury, on an island. He doesn't have much protection, very little running-game help and defenders pinning back their ears.
Now throw in that Eagle Valley was to face Glenwood Springs, a team in a rather sour disposition. The Demons had to forfeit four wins because of administration snafu on an ineligible player earlier this season.
That's a recipe for disaster. Yes, forfeiting this game was a painful yet correct decision.
• No blaming the coach: Tom LaFramboise is in the unenviable position of following an institution, John Ramunno. This isn't on LaFramboise.
The Devils lost a huge senior class, and were going to be down this year. And then the plague and pestilence, and just about everything else hit this team.
• Tone down the schedule: Yes, the nonconference slate was made with the rating-percentage index and the 2016 team in mind. It did a number on the 2017 squad.
Eagle Valley athletic director and assistant principal Tamara Payne said that no decision on the team's schedule has been made because the 3A Slope's makeup is still up in the air. Fair enough.
The rumble I've heard — completely unofficial — is that Steamboat Springs is moving up to the 3A league, while Rifle is going down to 2A. That'll help Eagle Valley.
Outside the league, let's get rid of Kent Denver and Erie and Evergreen. Keep Northridge and Lutheran. A tough schedule is good. Keeping Alabama and Georgia and the like is not necessary.
• Work: It's on the players. You never forget this season and you use it as fuel. You have to hit the weight room. You have to drill. Work the middle schools and get kids interested in football.
It shouldn't be a hard sell. Eagle Valley has a proud tradition. This is not a huge rebuild. This is not, pardon the expression, Battle Mountain during one of its many nadirs. This just requires hard work.
Oh, yes, Huskies win
• The first topic must be Boomer's backflip. That was really one of the coolest things ever. Breeam Brandenburg may go on to be high titan of finance, a medical pioneer or a dot-com maven, but Boomer's backflip on a 2-point conversion will be with him always and in Battle Mountain lore.
At his 20th reunion, that will be the conversion that won the league title. By the 30th reunion, that 2-pointer will have won state.
• This is a significant win for the program, not only because it was Eagle Valley, but because the Huskies need to learn how to win. With the exception of the Palisade game, Battle Mountain has been in every game against 3A teams. Beating Steamboat and Roaring Fork was nice, but beating 3A teams on the field is the point of the exercise.
The Huskies overcame an early fumble and two penalties that wiped on first downs during the first quarter. They had a lead at the half — Green Mountain, ahem — and finished. May this be the beginning of learning how to win.
• I'm very happy for Jake Bukovich catching a touchdown pass late in the second quarter. He's had some misfortune this year, but he's kept working hard and got a just reward. I'm also proud of Traver Goldberg for having redemption-filled campaign.
• Give tip of the cap to Schuppler and the Huskies staff. Not only have they made the Huskies competitive, but they've adjusted the game plan for the team as it has evolved this season.
Yes, we live in a strange universe where the Huskies run the double-wing a bit, while the Devils throw the ball. I know that Shoop and Co. have a bag of tricks, but they've kept it simple offensively.
The double-wing works, as Eagle Valley well knows. It's also a good offense for a team on the smallish size, and, even better for a big team as we saw in 2011. The I-formation isn't glamorous, but, as we saw against Eagle Valley, a team can still be creative. Attaboy, Bryce Runckel.
• And, as always, you can't stop Kia Gongaware. You can only hope to contain him.
• Hey, Battle Mountain, having read all this, the season ain't done. You have to bring your Eagle Valley effort to every game. It's Summit County on Friday, Nov. 3. Get a win.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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