Devils, Huskies and Saints realign football
February 10, 2016
EAGLE COUNTY — The cards were shuffled and have been dealt.
High school football realignment is out and you can't tell the teams without a program or a website.
Eagle Valley football remains in the 3A Slope, and Battle Mountain rejoins that league, which looks a lot different, while Vail Christian, now officially Class 1A 11-man football, gets a new home.
The 3A and 2A Slope
The main driver behind CHSAA's biennial shuffling was not just accounting for student-body size, but an evening out of the numbers in classes from 6- and 8-man to 5A across the state.
Thus, the 3A Slope has a familiar, but pared look. In alphabetical order, the league is Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Glenwood Springs, Palisade, Rifle and Summit County.
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And the natural response is, "Where's the rest of it?"
Answer: Scattered to the wind by new classification numbers. Class 3A football used to be for schools from 600 to 1,049 students. To balance the number of teams participating in every division, it's now 730 to 1,249.
First the good news — Montezuma-Cortez petitioned to move down to 2A football permanently, based on performance (or lack thereof), and CHSAA granted the motion. Sadly, the Devils and Huskies will have no more trips to the Four Corners area. (OK, everyone's happy with that.)
Steamboat Springs says goodbye to the 3A Slope and drops down to 2A because its student body is fewer than 730. (Both Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley weighed in well past 730, so they're 3A for football for a while.)
The Sailors will essentially take Battle Mountain's place in the old 2A Slope North, now officially called Conference F. While that's not the most glamorous name in the world, it is Steamboat, Aspen, Basalt, Coal Ridge, Moffat County and Roaring Fork.
While the Devils and Huskies are probably sorry to see Steamboat go from a geographical and competitive standpoint, no one is sorry to see Delta leave the 3A Slope.
Delta is moving to 2A football, where it will presumably terrorize its classification. Since the Panthers made the 3A state semifinals last fall and are a regular in the 3A playoffs, one can assume Delta will be a serious player at 2A at least until they run into the private schools of the Front Range in the playoffs. (For the record, we'll take Delta over Faith Christian and Kent Denver and the like.)
The other half of the season
Every team in the new and slimmed 3A Slope will play five conference games, which leaves quite the hole in nonconference play. Filling five nonconference games for Western Slope teams is a major issue — both financially (travel costs to bus the kids to games) and competitively.
On the travel front, there are no 3A squads in Western Colorado with the exception of Durango, which isn't a short trip. With the exception of Durango, everyone else in 3A is on the Front Range.
The two 3A schools are taking different approaches to their five nonconference games based on the condition of their programs. Eagle Valley has the taking-on-everyone concept, having qualified for the 3A playoffs the last two years and with a promising corps returning. The Devils have Evergreen, Northridge, Lutheran, Erie and Kent Denver as nonconference games. That, boys and girls, is what is called strength of schedule, which, by the way, is how CHSAA is ranking teams for the playoffs now. (I'd make a joke about Eagle Valley copping out by playing a 2A school, but it's Kent. Yikes.)
Battle Mountain, coming off its two-year sojourn into 2A and returning to 3A, understandably taking a less rigorous route, which is wise. (In fairness, most everything is less rigorous than what the Devils are doing.) The Huskies have 3A Green Mountain and familiar 2A foes Steamboat, Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge and Basalt.
Kudos to both athletic programs, coaches and schools for making the right decisions for their football squads.
Welcome to the Foothills, Saints
Vail Christian, by student body count, moves from 8-man football to Class 1A 11-man football. This should be a good move on all fronts. Six more starting spots are available and the general dropping of a football program doesn't happen. (The Saints lost two of their nine regular-season games last year when Longmont Christian and Justice couldn't field teams.)
The Saints are in the Foothills Conference with Bennett (7-3, 1A Frontier League champions last year), Clear Creek, (3-5, tied for fifth in the 1A Metro Conference) Front Range Christian (4-5, fourth in the 1A Metro), Manual (3-6, coming down from 2A Colorado League where the team tied for seventh) and Platte Canyon (7-2, second in 1A Metro Conference).
Also good news is that the 1A Western Slope (Cedaredge, Grand Valley, Hotchkiss, Meeker, Olathe and Paonia) also provides an easy geographic and competitive way of filling out the Saints' nine-game schedule. Nederland is also an option as a 1A independent.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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