Eagle Valley football finishes 7-3; eye playoffs | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley football finishes 7-3; eye playoffs

GRAND JUNCTION — They are battered. They are bruised. But they're still standing.

Eagle Valley football hung on late at Grand Junction Central, 21-20, on Thursday night, turning back a Warriors' 2-point conversion attempt with 6:26 left in the game.

The Devils have finished the regular season at 7-3 overall and 4-4 in the heavyweight 3A Western Slope. And afterward, Eagle Valley coach John Ramunno said that his team is playoff-bound.

"It's awesome being in the playoffs," the coach said. "At the beginning of the season, it was our goal to be in the money. It's cool playing a meaningful game at the end of the season."

The final CHSAA points come out on Sunday. Eagle Valley entered the week at No. 14 with 16 teams making the cut. Forget the higher math involved with the points, seven 3A wins does it.

This is only the third time since moving up to 3A back in 2004 that the Devils have qualified for playoffs (2005 and 2012).

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Lean on the line

The Devils were one banged up bunch heading into Thursday's game.

"Anybody who thinks our league is easy should play Delta and Palisade on back-to-back weeks," Ramunno somewhat joked.

The Devils knocked off Delta, 18-7, two weeks ago, and then dropped a very respectable 26-14 decision to Palisade.

If Eagle Valley had to file an injury report like teams in the NFL, it would have been rather lengthy.

Tight-end Bryce Muelenthaler tore his ACL against Palisade. Running back Luis Chavez has a bad ankle and on and on.

But when you're backed into a corner, go to your strength, which in Eagle Valley's case, is running the football. Riley Rowles racked up 211 yards against Central.

So give it up for the Devils line of Juan Toscano, Devin Ward, Oscar Rubio, Griffin Lay, Anthony Martinez and Xavier Mendoza. Raven Duty and Ty Harris were also instrumental in substitution roles as the game went on. When you're talking Eagle Valley's double-wing offense, the tight ends are very much a part of the blocking picture. Wyatt Borah, Mingmar Sherpa and Charlie Fessenden also got the coach's kudos.

'Foot'ball

Quarterback Harrison Stevens called his number from 1 yard out during the first quarter and Aldo Palacios kicked the extra point. You may recall Palacios from such previous episodes as "Eagle Valley Soccer."

Palacios and his trusty leg were a big part of this because the Warriors responded with a touchdown drive, but missed their PAT.

Senior Ben Witt picked a really darned good time to score the first varsity touchdown of his career during the second quarter. That was a 25-yard pick-six.

Rowles got to the end zone during the third quarter for a 21-6 lead at the time.

While Palacios was 3-for-3 on extra points, the Warriors closed to 21-14 on a touchdown and a 2-point conversion.

When Central scored again in the fourth quarter, it went for two and the lead. The Devils stuffed the Warriors. Ramunno gave the tackle to Toscano and Mendoza, but credited the entire defensive unit with a job well done.

The Devils' defense turned back Central on one final possession, while the offense ate a lot of clock on its final two drives.

Getting healthy

Priority No. 1 is simply healing. By playing on Thursday, the Devils get a three-day weekend from football. On Sunday, they'll get their draw.

If — and this is a big if — the seedings hold, No. 14 Eagle Valley would be at No. 3 Roosevelt on Nov. 8. For the sake of omens, the last time the Devils were in the postseason, they were No. 14 and beat the stuffing out of No. 3 Frederick.

As always with playoff projections, your mileage may vary.

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